Thursday, July 31, 2014

Protip: Don't faceplant!

I'm feeling much better after Tuesday's adventure.  My chin is still swollen and my jaw is still tender at the right TMJ, but it's getting better.  Yesterday I went for a walk and took it easy.  The schedule called for cross-training or a rest day, but I figured that my body had enough going on trying to repair my face that I didn't need to stress it.

So, first rule of injury prevention: don't fall down.

Second rule:  your hips are weak.

But I run fast, you say.  But I am healthy, you say!  But I've been doing this longer than you have, emmbee, you say!

That is true.

Still, your hips are weak.  Especially if you're female, and especially if you've had a baby.

I'm a new runner, but I'm an old pro at starting running programs and giving up due to knee and IT band pain.  I knew my feet were flexible, and that I overpronated moderately, so I bought motion control shoes, and, well, I still had pain.

Then I had a baby who liked to eat, and I spent many hours nursing and reading books about running on my Kindle.  And I learned that many of the aches and pains of runners can be attributed to weak hips.

Here's the deal.  When you run, you take about 3000 steps per mile, give or take.  Your body is a marvelous machine, so imagine any other machine you like.  A bicycle, maybe, or a stand mixer.  Now imagine a tiny problem with its mechanics -- maybe a slightly wobbly tire, or one tooth on a gear slightly out of position.  How would it last after 15,000 repetitions?

Why would your body be any different?

Now, this is not all to say that we need to have the same form.  Your personal history and movement patterns are stamped on your body.  But if something small is out of balance, it can lead to greater problems down the line.

Think about your hips and glutes.  If they're not strong, or if they're not firing, when you stride forward powerfully, as you do when you run, your leg will cave in slightly.   Assuming you don't fall down (see protip #1), some other muscle and joint has to compensate to absorb the force.  That means that your foot rolls in more, and your quad and IT band have to tighten to catch you.  Do that 15,000 times, and you stand a good chance of injury.

Often, it's not a matter of pure strength.  If you want the easiest, no brainer fix, just find a trainer and learn how to squat and deadlift.  Once you can do those, you'll have sorted out your hip and glute issues.  But you might not be into cross-training, nor might you have time or access for a gym, and the thing is, there is no savings account in strength training.  You have to work these muscles all the time.

So, what to do?

There are so many things, but here's what I like as a starting point:

  1. Stand tall.  (If you do yoga, think of mountain pose.)  Stand with your weight equally balanced on your feet, with a neutral pelvis, tail neither tucked nor popped.  Your weight should be over your heels; check this by wiggling your toes off the ground.
  2. Now, think of rotating your knees outward from the hips.  You won't actually move your knees --- you're just trying to find that little stabilizing muscle.*  What you're thinking of is moving your glutes (buttcheeks) together without clenching them, rotating your femurs outward without moving your feet.  
  3. Now, notice what it does.  Pay attention to your body!  You'll notice that your knees separate a bit, and your legs are straighter.  Your arches will lift slightly.  
This is what you need to get your body to do while you run.  Obviously, you're not going to be able to concentrate on that, so you do strengthening exercises to get those muscles to fire.

Here's my three favorite hip strengtheners.  
  • Air squats.  Standing tall, squat down to parallel or just below, and then stand back up.  Here's what you need to think about while doing this:
    • Remember that little stabilizing muscle in your butt?  Think about it.  Feel it push your knees outward as you squat and rise.  You want to keep your knees from collapsing in, and you want that to happen from your butt.
    • Power yourself back up with your glutes -- you want to avoid tipping forward.  Keep your weight over your heels as much as you can.
    • I like to do these after runs, maybe 20 or so.
  • Monster walks.  For this one, you need one of those stretchy elastic flat bands.  Loop the band around both legs, around your calves or ankles.  Stand with your feet about hip width and bend your knees into a high squat.  Then, keeping tension in the band, step sideways.  
    • Do ten steps in one direction, and then come back ten steps the other way.  You'll feel this in your hip rotators, too.
    • Three sets of ten should do ya.
  • Roll-outs.  For this one, you need that flat band again, a soccer-ball sized rubber ball (like the kind your kids want at the supermarket), and a chair or a stability ball.
    • The band goes around your legs just above the knee.  Your butt sits on the big ball.  The little ball goes between your knees, feet about hip width apart.  Keep your hands on the little ball.
    • Think about that little stabilizing muscle, and feel it work as you roll your feet to the outside -- your legs will part, and you'll feel the band stretch.  Then, return your feet to neutral, and squeeze the little ball between your legs.  You're basically doing a clam shell, but while sitting, with a little added resistance.
    • Three sets of eight should be good.  If you Kegel as you squeeze the ball, and lift your pelvic floor, you'll get a good workout there, too.  (Important for us mother runners.)
And you're on your way!  Bulletproof.  Just don't fall on your face.

Technically, it's all these little muscles.  But they're hard to tell apart, and you're looking for a feeling of rotation.

(Standard sort of disclaimer:  I'm not a medical doctor, just a hobbyist, so think critically when deciding whether to listen to some loon on the Internet.  Ta!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Well, hell.

Today's run was going to be great.  Sunday's rest day followed by an invigorating yoga workout yesterday primed my body to be ready for a good effort.  My various aches weren't feeling too bad, and I slept in a bit, but as it's cool (well, 75 degrees) and rainy, I figured I'd be okay with a later start.

Because of the rain I figured I'd hit the roads instead of the trails, and I set off for an easy seven.

First two miles were great.  The rain was misting gently. Warming up, legs feeling good, ready to push it a bit:

Avg Pace

Pretty cool, huh?

Then, WHAM!  I slipped while crossing a road and face-planted.  My chin hit the ground hard, and gushed blood.  Some construction guys came over to see if I was okay and offered me a towel and  a bandaid.  

I limped the two miles home.  Total time: 1:03.  No seven miles.  A tender jaw and chin, and various abrasions and contusions everywhere.

Not the medium length run I was hoping for!  I'm not the whiniest person in the house only because the baby has a fever.

I think I'm going to hunker indoors today, surrounded by soft pillows.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Check in, tune up.

As I'm beginning week seven of training, I'm nearly halfway there, and I thought it wise to take stock of what's well and what's whining:

  • Left glute/hip
    • This side has been the bane of my existence since about the 32nd week of pregnancy.  I can't quite figure out what's wrong, but it's as if the entire posterior chain on that side is just about half an inch too short.  Stretching helps, but a basic forward fold is really tough on that side right where the hamstring cups under the glute.  It does not seem to be worsened by running, but it's been frustrating for a while.  Interestingly, what seems to make it worse is sitting in my desk chair.
      • Remedy: sitting on exercise ball, lots of stretching.
  • Right IT band
    • Just a tiny tweak and tightness right above the outside of the knee.  It's noticeable if I try hero's pose or squat deeply.  
      • Remedy: It gets better with rolling or Sticking, but I need to keep on it.
  • Right heel
    • Some pain on the outside of the foot near the heel.  This started after I stumbled while trail running and stoved my foot hard.  It's tighter in the morning, but loosens as it warms up (which sounds like PF, but it's in the wrong place.)
  • Right bunion
    • This is just the worst.  I've had bunions since I was a kid, which just seems so unfair.  Where were the years of stilettos?  I have a narrow midfoot and flexible feet, and I think as a kid this meant just that my toes had to grip to keep shoes on, and over time, this forced out the big toe joint.  Anyhow, lovely hallux valgus, but no mobility limitations.  My left foot is visibly worse, but does not hurt.  My right foot, however, is driving me nuts.  It seems to be worse if I tie my shoes too tightly over the instep.  
      • Remedy: Yoga Toes stretching, lacing properly, maybe look into taping.
Reflecting on this I wonder if perhaps I'd do better with a lower drop shoe or a stability shoe to help out that right leg a bit.  No knee problems, though, which for me historically is when I can tell a shoe doesn't work.  

I think I need to recommit to doing more core and hip stability work, and to doing a brief yoga session after runs.  (Too often I skip stretching in favor of showering, and too often I miss showering in favor of waking up the baby.)

But despite my whiny body, I'm actually feeling really good so far in the training cycle.  The long runs haven't left me as wiped or hurting as I thought they would; aches and pains are noticeable, but not to the point where I feel like I need Tylenol every day to function.  

Today's plan called for a fun workout.  I haven't done yoga in months as limited training time has been spent on lifting, but tonight called for a lovely yoga session in my living room as the evening breeze blew through the house, bringing the promise of thunderstorms (but maddeningly, as of yet, no actual rain.)  

Check out what I did!  Ron's classes are great.

Seven miles in the morning.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Skirt in the Dirt 5K recap!

Event: Skirt in the Dirt 5K
Location: Fort Buenaventura Park, Ogden, UT
Type:  Trail race/fun run
Participants: ~500.
Swag:  Pink tote bag + champagne flute for finishers
Awards:  First place overall, age group, prizes for best costumes, teams, and spirit.

This women's only trail race consists of two loops through woods, across a stream/river (6 times total), through sand, climbing over logs, and so forth.  As they say, it's not a course for a PR, but it is a lot of fun.

Normally, the trail also climbs a set of stairs and then runs along the top of the ridge before descending to the finishing area for the second loop, but this year, the first couple of runners were attacked by bees, so they shifted the race to the lower level second loop.

The race brings together a lot of people, and there's basically two groups of people running it.  There are people, like me, who are running it as a race -- not taking it particularly seriously given the terrain, but who are at least trying to run it.  And then there are people who are partaking in the fun run aspect of it.   Tutus, fabulous costumes, and no concerns about time at all.  These women are great, and I especially love seeing moms run with their little daughters.  The little ones are so cute.  (And one badass girl finished eighth!  At ten years old!)

The organizers court both groups.  It's billed pretty heavily as a fun run in the mud with your girlz, but they also sweetened the deal this year -- anyone who participates is guaranteed entry to the Ogden Marathon, which ALWAYS sells out very quickly.   T

None of this would be a problem except that the course loops, and some of the water crossings and obstacles are narrow.  So the front runners lap those who are trailing behind, and there's a lot of congestion on the trails.  Most everyone is great about it though -- the racers try not to step on the fun runners, and the fun runners usually get out of the way.

I've run this race once before.  It was the second race I'd ever run, and I was six weeks pregnant, feeling awful, but I didn't drop out because I wasn't ready to announce that I was pregnant yet and I was running with a friend who totally would have guessed.  It had been a hot day in August and by the end of it I felt whipped.

Today was great.  I had no real time goals, as I was mostly using this as a recovery run.  It started at 8am.  Temperatures were in the 70s when we started, and the sun was just starting to shine.  I arrived two minutes before the start (parking took longer than I'd expected), and everyone took off.  I just tried to keep an even pace while my legs warmed up, and after the first big water crossing, I sped up.

I had my car key remote tucked in my bra, hoping that they wouldn't get wet in the deeper portion of the stream, but it was only thigh-high, fortunately.  (Nothing like googling "can you get car keys wet" the night before a race.)

Here's the thing with races.  I'm not very fast, but I love passing people.  This is fun in a race that loops.  About two-thirds of the way into the race, well into the second lap, I set my sights on a couple of women running together who were about twenty yards ahead of me.  Pink Girl and White Girl, I called them (referring to their tank tops.)

I was gaining on them!  I would pass them!  I knew it!  You're mine, Pink Girl!

And then we crossed another water hazard and I got stuck behind some tutus.

I caught up again, but didn't manage to pass them.   I finished in 36:45, 16th overall.

At the finishing corral,to record our times, a volunteer scanned our bibs as if we were produce at the supermarket, and we received our times and places on little cards produced by Runner Card.

The finisher's area featured cupcakes and frosted strawberries, champagne or apple cider in the finisher's flutes, and I don't have any pictures because I ate them all up before I retrieved my phone from the car.  (Phones and water hazards are bad idea.)  So tasty.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Back to back.

It surprises me how much perceived effort can vary.  Thursday's workout called for another series of intervals 6@ 45 seconds with 1 min walking,  following a warmup.

Here's the pertinent details:
Split Time         Avg Pace
1 10:21.9 10:22
3 00:45.6 6:45
5 00:46.6 6:35
7 00:46.0 6:36
9 00:50.9 6:45
11 00:44.6 6:19
13 00:44.2 6:09
15 04:50.1 8:15

Something clicked on interval 3 (split 7) where while I was running fast for me, I also felt light, quick, and in control.   

But what is really interesting to me is how the cooldown lap, split 15 felt.  I was exerting myself, but it felt a lot easier than the warm-up, and I would have guessed I was running in the mid-9s.  All wasn't perfect, though, as I think I mildly strained my right quad.

This morning was a different story.  I could not force myself to run faster.  The good news is for an easy-paced long run, that's okay.  But the bewildering thing is just how much effort it felt like it was taking to run an easy pace.  My lungs were fine, but my legs just wanted to die.

Split Avg Pace
1 10:47
2 10:05
3 10:05
4 10:07
5 10:15
6 10:03
7 10:32
8 10:07
9 9:53

Clunk, clunk, clunk.   What I find interesting is how much harder today's run felt than yesterday's much faster cooldown lap.  The difference?  Today's workout followed an interval day, and yesterday's cooldown lap followed running at close to my maximum pace.  I think it's like the weightlifting phenomenon where a reasonably heavy weight feels much lighter after lifting an even heavier load.

Why were the runs back to back?  Because tomorrow is Skirt in the Dirt!

O Pioneers!

In Utah, July 24th is a public holiday called Pioneer Day.  It commemorates the day when the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah and Brigham Young basically told them all to stop.  (Legend says it was a revelation; I have to think that Mr. Young realized that once past the Salt Lake valley it's very dry and not terribly habitable.)  It's an odd holiday.  It's part celebration of the old West, with rodeos and parades and fireworks, and part covert religious holiday, for many present-day Mormon residents of Utah had ancestors who traveled with Brigham Young, and some re-enact their great*-grandfathers' journey with handcarts, and so forth.

Utah's odd.  Until the past twenty years or so, it was nearly entirely Mormon, but now there are many people who live here who grew up elsewhere, are not Mormon.  You know how some communities struggle when a bunch of hipsters move in and the neighborhood gentrifies?  Just imagine all of Utah gentrifying, and you have a good sense of its growing pains.

In any case, some non-Mormon Utahns, who don't have pioneer ancestors, cheekily dubbed July 24th "Pie 'n Beer Day."  A way to celebrate the day off!

But it was 100 degrees, and no way in hell was I baking a pie.  So instead, I went to the garden, and picked a bunch of sweet basil, and made sweet basil ice cream.

Making ice cream is easy.  You'll need an ice cream maker.  I have the kind with an insulated bowl that you freeze, and I've found that it works great.

Ice cream is essentially a frozen creme anglaise, which is a thin custard sauce.    This is the base of all ice creams, and it's really pretty flexible.  It's a custard, it's delicious, and you're going to freeze it anyway.

Here's the basic plan:

  • 3 cups half-and-half (get the kind that's just milk and cream.)
  • 4 egg yolks  (more yolks = a richer ice cream.  4 works for me.)
  • 3/4 cups of sugar.
  • 1 cup of packed basil leaves (I always hate this locution.  Ever try to pack a leaf?  It's not exactly brown sugar here.  But goosh them in there the best you can.)
Mix up the egg yolks in a heatproof container.  I use my 4-cup pyrex measuring cup.  Set aside.

Take the sugar, one cup of the half-and-half, and the basil, and put it in your blender or similar blending thingy.  I used a Magic Bullet for two minutes.  You want it to be smooth, without any big basil pieces.

Pour the basil mixture into a medium saucepan, and add the rest of the cream.  Heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk steams.

You can see it just starting to foam at the edges.  Perfect temp.

Now, if you were to just add the hot milk to the egg yolks, you'd wind up with cooked egg yolks.  So what you want to do is temper the eggs.  Pour about a cup of the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks briskly.  Once that's mixed well, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the rest of the cream mixture.

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring continuously but lazily.  It's ready when the mixture is thick enough that it coats the back of the spoon, and if you were to swipe your finger along the back of the spoon, you'd leave a line.  

(If, however, you try to get a picture of this for your blog, but your custard is too hot, and you burn your finger, and nearly drop your phone into your custard sauce, well, that makes too of us.)

This is not an exact science; all you want is for the sauce to be thickened, and since you're freezing this for ice cream, it really doesn't matter all that much.  

If you like, strain the custard through a wire strainer into a glass bowl.  (I usually don't bother, unless I didn't temper the eggs right and they scrambled a little.  Lazy cooking ftw.)  Cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for at least two hours.  The mixture needs to be cold before you put it in your ice cream maker.

Freeze in the ice cream maker according to its direction.  Mine takes about 25 minutes to get a nice soft ice cream.  Scoop it into a container and freeze it for about two hours.

Then, scoop and garnish with strawberries.  The basil flavor is delicate and delicious.

Ramekins optional.

And that's how you celebrate Pie n' Beer Day, without beer (I had wine) or pie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

After the fire

My running trail looks like the moon:

No one was hurt, nor was there any property damage, so I am free to appreciate the eerie beauty of the landscape.  The contrast with the surrounding hill is striking:

It smells like over-toasted marshmallows.  

There's a peace to the burned land that is hard to describe.  It will recover in a few years.  I am tempted to seed it with local wildflowers.  Wouldn't that be great?  A spot on the mountain all covered in Western paintbrushes and columbines and globe mallows.  A riot of color.

I like to imagine this little guy fought hard.  He retains some green yet.

Here you can see how close the fire came to disaster.  One spark over the fire road, and the town would have been in trouble:


Today was a much needed rest day for me.  Tomorrow intervals; Friday a long run; Saturday, a fun trail race!  More later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On track.

Yesterday started inauspiciously.  My alarm went off at 5:30, but I opted to sleep in, reasoning that I had only three miles to do, and they could be just as easily done in the jogging stroller if I left off the strides.

So I woke up for the day at the late hour of 6:45, fed the baby, ran an errand, strapped the kid into the jogging stroller only to discover that the right rear tire had gone flat, again.  I just replaced it on Saturday.  After futilely trying to reinflate it for half an hour, I was out of time and patience, and so I kicked my run to 8pm, after the baby's bedtime.

It was a good run.  3 miles at a good pace, followed by 5 strides.  (The plan said six.  The hell with the last stride, I said.)  I'm not all that comfortable with speed yet, but I managed a good set of strides averaging around 6:30m/m.  

Jogged home, stretched, rolled, but didn't get to bed until around 11.  I'm trying to get more sleep but I have a hard time winding down.  In any case, the only problem with working out in the evening as a catch-up is when the next day calls for six miles at 6AM.

I survived, and I maintained a good pace and cadence, but I was dragging by the end of it.  Very glad tomorrow is a rest day.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mulligan. (Week Five Recap.)

Not the best week five, I'll grant you.  I plead a sinus cold, insomnia, exhaustion, and the mountain being on fire.

The Plan: 3 miles + strides, or XT.
What I did:  XT, focusing on deadlifts and planks.

The Plan:  Five miles.
What I did:  Five miles.

The Plan:  XT, or rest.
What I did: Strength training, and reviewed my shoes.

And here the wheels fall off the wagon:

The Plan:  3-5 miles.
What I did:  Took a nap, followed by a nap, followed by Tylenol and Sudafed.

The Plan:  3 miles or XT.
What I did:  Ran my favorite trail for 3.8 miles with +/-440 elev.

Friday night:  Did not sleep.

The Plan:  Long run of eight miles.
What I did:  Took a nap.  Elected to move long run to Sunday morning.

The Plan: Rest
My modified plan: Long run of eight miles.
What I did:  Watched the mountain catch on fire; made pot de creme.

Of a planned 21 miles, I managed 9.  Ouch.

I'm still too drained to run, so I suspect the missed long run will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.  I can complete eight miles easily, and next week moves up only to nine, so this shouldn't set me back too much as long as I get out there tomorrow and get back on track.

My goal this week is to figure out nutrition and sleep.  I don't track calories, because it tends to make me nuts, and I usually don't have to worry about sleep.  But I've been so worn down lately that I think I need to get both into gear if I am to keep up with the early morning workouts.

I think I'm giving up on this long run.

It's been an unusually tiring week.  Fitting in runs in this heat means getting up at 5:30AM, and having a toddler means that the longest I ever sleep in is 6:30 AM, and so I think I've been operating at a serious sleep deficit for the past month.  It caught up with me with a sore throat and exhaustion that killed Thursday's run, insomnia Friday night so I lost Saturday's run, but I wasn't worried.

I had a plan.

I'd get to bed early Saturday night, wake up well-rested this morning, and run my eight miles.   In effect, I'd have switched my long run and my rest day, but as eight miles isn't a stretch for me, I figured no harm done.

I went to bed at 9:30, hoping to fall asleep by 10.  I noticed a smell of smoke; queried the spouse, who suggested that it was an outdoor grill or firepit.

The smell grew stronger.  By 11pm, I looked outside, and I saw this.
A fire had started up in the canyon, and as the evening winds picked up, it spread.  Fire crews (totally awesome) managed to contain it above the fire road, and no homes or structures were threatened.  Homes a quarter mile closer to the fire were evacuated, and there was a trail of cars down our street.  This morning it's still burning out, and the entire area smells of smoke.

The toddler woke up when we opened his door to ensure air could circulate into his room.  We had to shut the windows and turn off the swamp cooler due to the smoke.  We hid out in the basement for a bit, where it was cooler and less obviously smoky, and then we lost power, and all went upstairs to go back to sleep once we saw via Twitter that the fire had been largely contained and that the evacuation order had been lifted.

Fortunately, no injuries and no property damage.  But yes, the trail near where I normally run was ON FIRE.  

As a result, I've had maybe five hours of sleep in the past forty-eight hours.  And I've gone from exhausted to drained.   The air quality is horrible, although we might get some relief if it rains this afternoon.

Missing this run won't kill me.  I can do eight; I've done it before.   Next weekend I have nine scheduled, and I can manage that, too.  But I'm itching to get out there.   

Maybe after a nap?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


At six in the morning during the summer, dawn paints the rocks that border the trail a pale mauve.  It is light enough to see, but just so; the street lights are just beginning to wink out.  The canyon winds blow briskly, thrilling me as I imagine for a moment becoming airborne, lofting over the edge of the sheer trail.

(Don't worry, Mom, that hasn't happened yet.)

Over the course of the first mile, it winds down 252 feet to the base of the canyon, and over the second mile, it climbs up 368 until the trail flattens out and provides a swift surface home.

(My splits, typical of this trail: 10:16; 13:59; 8:59; 8:51.)

On ordinary daily runs, I run without music.  I prefer to alternate soaking up the trail with losing myself in my thoughts.  I write in my head; I run; I argue; I console; I plan.

Yet this trail is different.  The dry trail snakes under the Utah sun, bordered by sagebrush, until it passes under some scrubby trees.  In the shade flourish all manner of broad-leafed plants that would not look out of place in any Pennsylvanian forest.  The trail becomes slightly slick here from retained moisture; after rains it's downright treacherous.  There are small rocks strewn all over it, but not many, and for the first two miles, it is barely more than a narrow bit of singletrack, favored by mountain bikers who enjoy the perilous ride, mere inches away from a sheer drop-off.

At six AM, they are still asleep.  The trail is mine, and it requires my full attention.  A rolled ankle or a false step would probably not be disastrous, but it would be unpleasant.  I focus on placing my feet, lifting them lightly.  On roads or flat gravel trails, my stride lopes along at a relatively low cadence.  On trails, I scamper.

Many runners write that running is their stress relief, arguing that the enormous physical effort they put forth serves as a release.  For me, at least, it's different.  The effort is strenuous, true, but the destruction of the stress lies in the intense concentration necessary to navigate the trails.  All thoughts of the world drop away.

The rest of my life rarely demands that focus.  Much of modern life is set up to favor multi-tasking.  I sit at my computer to write, and my phone buzzes with e-mail.  I eat breakfast and grade exams while listening with half an ear to NPR.  I run loads of laundry while playing with the baby.

The world scatters my mind.  Running unifies it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This is just unfair.

Yesterday after the gym I wasn't feeling well, but I chalked it up to ordinary tiredness and low blood sugar after a tough workout.  Today, it's pretty clear that I've got some kind of head cold and sore throat.

The usual rule of thumb is that it's okay to workout as long as the symptoms are limited to "above the neck."  But as I have swollen neck glands and exhaustion, I think I'm going to skip my planned five miles today and see if I feel better with a bit of rest.

Plus, I have a killer KILL THE COLD soup recipe:

  • Chicken broth (Better Than Bouillon)
  • Sriracha
  • Powdered ginger
  • Garlic powder
8oz of broth, smidge of sriracha, ginger, and garlic.  Instant rehydration, and I believe fervently with no evidence that hot sauce kills germies.

I had such a nice trail run planned.  Stupid summer colds.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nike Pegasus 30 review... aka worst reviewer ever.

I honestly think one of the best reasons to up one's mileage is to have an excuse for new running shoes.  Even better -- rotating running shoes (h/t: Runblogger) is linked to injury prevention.  The basic idea is this: a shoe provides a surface for your foot to strike.  Varying the surface by wearing different shoes (or running on different surfaces) stresses your body differently, and probably thereby reduces the risk of overuse injuries.  

Still, most days, the Nike Pegasus 30 are my go-to shoes.  I run primarily on roads and easy trail surfaces -- gravel, packed dirt, and grass.  If I need a more technical shoe, I pick a different pair (but let's save that for another day.)  

I think one has to take a weird downshot pic of one's legs
in order to blog about running.

There are two reasons why I'll never be a great shoe reviewer:
  • I'm cheap, because the toddler eats all my money, so I tend to buy last year's model.  So unless y'all have a time travel machine and arrived here from 2013, this is probably too late to help, especially because they're already on clearance everywhere.
  • I can never determine if I like a shoe until I've put a hundred miles on it, so it takes me a while to figure out the strengths of a shoe.
Shoe reviews are so specific to the person, but I enjoy reading them because it's really just vicarious consumerism.

Anyhow, I picked these up at the start of half marathon training.  Some background: I used to run in motion control shoes, because I was told I overpronate, but when I started running again last fall, I wore Altra Torins, figuring that zero-drop was interesting and that as I was a newbie I had no bad habits to break.  They worked well for a while but as I began to increase my mileage, I noticed that the shoes were really too wide in the midfoot for me to feel secure in the shoe and that judging from the wear pattern I was still heel-striking.  I wound up putting blue Superfeet in them to feel secure and at that point I was really defeating the purpose of the zero-drop shoe, plus, after 271 miles, they wore out.

So I went to the local running store, and their pressure mat, to my surprise, indicated that I have high arched feet with good mechanics.  Apparently a lot of walking, time spent barefoot, and obsession with core has changed my gait!  This is when walking, and I suspect that I have less control when running, but in any case, I figured I'd give a neutral cushioned shoe a try, and focus on making sure it had features I knew I wanted.  I tried on seven or eight pairs of shoes.

Here's what I wanted.  
  • Solid arch support.  I have high arches, and flexible feet, and I was planning to up my mileage considerably for the first time.
  • Cushioning that didn't force my foot to pronate inward (ruled out the Saucony Ride)
  • A relatively flexible and responsive forefoot.
  • A narrow midfoot with a relatively low volume as my foot is something of a pancake.
  • A wide toe box with no overlays over the bunion area.  I've had bunions since I was 12, which is awful, but there you go.  The only good thing about having bunions is that they work sort of like fire alarms for shoes -- I'll know within ten seconds if they won't work.
  • A sole with actual rubber on it.  I'd like this shoe to get me through all of half training without having to be replaced right before the race.  (This ruled out the Nike Lunarglide 5, which I think I would have loved.)  
  • A narrow heel.
One shoe off, one shoe on...

Things I cared about less than I thought I would:
  • Weight.
  • Offset.  My other pairs of shoes are 4mm offset.   I honestly can't notice much of a difference, possibly because the heel is so soft.
The Pegasus 30 and 31 felt great; the Pegasus 30 was on sale.  To be honest I think the 30 is a little more squishy than I'd like, but I love the way it hugs my foot securely, and I'm hoping the 31 will be even better as they dropped offset by 4mm.

I'm a mild heel striker, and I don't overstride badly.  I suspect as I get faster and fitter my form will improve.  The 30 is great for heel strikers as there's plenty of cushion, but it has plenty of cushion for midfoot strikers, too -- I know this because I shift to the midfoot when I run hard during intervals.  

Ground feel isn't superb, but the flexible forefoot is springy and I feel like I have the control I need to propel myself forward.  

I run about 80% of my miles in these shoes and after 100 miles, they feel great.  The soles are holding up well.
Where is the wear?
I tend to wear down shoes at the heel on the outside and squarely under the ball of the foot, on the assumption the shoe fits well.  You can see the beginnings of wear just under the forefoot:
Oh, there it is.

Not bad for a hundred miles that are mostly on trails!  I'm hoping they make it another 300, but 400 miles might be a bit much to expect out of a daily trainer.  So far, though, if they die before the half marathon, I'd be inclined to buy another pair, which is high praise.

I get the sense from the Internet that lots of runners don't like Nike because their shoes don't fit some people well.  But I have to say that if you have a relatively narrow foot and like support, this is a winner.  


Today's strength training:
-4x6 back squat at 85% 
-5 rounds: 6 push-ups, 8 two arm dumbbell presses, 8 lateral raises
- tabata: 4 minutes alternate air squats and bird dippers, 4 minutes alternate supermans and hollow rocks.

This is the sort of workout that doesn't look too bad until you realize that by rounds four and five of the push-up/press/raise circuit, every muscle in your body will be shaking.  Following that up with tabatas was pure evil. 

 I'm a little concerned that I'm not doing traditional cardio as cross-training, but I seem to be able to complete the long runs with no problems, so for now, four days of running and two days of lifting seem to be working for me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Never stop cheering.

Five miles at 6AM this morning.  9:49 pace, which is starting to become the norm for morning runs after lifting.  I'm feeling strong, but I'm also definitely feeling the effects of the first month of training.  Little twinges here and there.  A whiny right knee.  A cranky right foot.  The perennially tight left quad and glute.  Nothing too serious, at least.

These beauties are from my Stupice tomato plant.  

This is the first time since moving to Utah that I've managed to grow tomatoes in July.  Utah is very dry, and in previous years, my tomatoes ended up starved for water, going dormant for most of the summer, and then producing fruit in September or even November.  So, this is an accomplishment.  

Whenever my toddler accomplishes something, he cheers and claps his hands for himself.  Beads moved on the bead maze?  YAY!  Drinking milk out of a sippy cup?  YAY!  First time climbing the stairs?  YAY!  His face glows with pure delight.

A friend observed yesterday, "When is it that we stop cheering for ourselves?"  We, especially women, learn somewhere along the way that our accomplishments are to be downplayed.  Got a promotion?  Oh, that was nice of them.  Running a race?  Oh, it's just the half.  Ran a race?  Oh, I'm slow.

What would it be like, if for just one day, we recaptured the exuberance of a toddler?

Monday, July 14, 2014


So, that was interesting.  We had another windy morning and I've been really tired lately, so I opted to sleep in until 6:30AM and forgo a short 3-mile run in favor of yet another strength training Monday.

Today's strength workout totally caught me by surprise.  Coach posted the workout earlier, and when I first looked at it, I figured it would be an easy Monday.  Surely better than a 3 mile run + strides.

- Warm up
- 4x6 overheard press @ 85 %
- sets of 5 dead lift: 50%, 65%,75%,85%,90-95%
-3x8 bent rows, moderate weight
-3x8 lat pull downs
- max front plank x 3

Oh, did you notice what I missed there?

- sets of 5 dead lift: 50%, 65%,75%,85%,90-95%

As it turns out, 5 reps of 95% max weight, which is EQUAL TO MY BODYWEIGHT, is a hell of an evil workout.  I was briefly lightheaded.  But this didn't happen, so it's all good:

My face looked like that, though.

My max plank is 2 minutes and 10 seconds.  And then a nap.

A new body.

I didn't run during pregnancy.  Well, not really.  I had a trail race, my second race ever, the Skirt in the Dirt 5K planned, and it was three weeks after I took the pregnancy test.  I didn't want to drop out because I wasn't ready to tell my friends I was pregnant.  I was fortunate in that I didn't have morning sickness, but the run was just awful.  Sore everywhere, throbbing ovary, and after the race, that was it.

During the first two trimesters pregnancy I lifted weights, which I'd been doing for years so I was able to do them safely, and worked out on the elliptical.  I also did yoga and Pilates.  By the third trimester I was feeling too stretchy to feel like I could control the weights, and my workout clothes weren't fitting, so I took up swimming until my maternity swimsuit disintegrated when I was 34 weeks along.  Then I walked, usually about 3 miles a day, including the day I went into labor.

So, no running.  I thought I'd have an easy return to my post-pregnancy body, but then labor turned into a prolonged second stage culminating in forceps, and I had severe pelvic floor laxity and all the fun that goes with that  Starting at about six weeks postpartum, I used the Hab-It PT routine.

This was hard for me, because I've been lucky in that I've always had relatively good health, barring the occasional injury here and there.  I was finding it challenging to carry the baby in his carseat.  It helped mentally for me to think of recovering from childbirth as if it were recovering from a major injury.  If someone had taken a baseball bat to my pelvis, I wouldn't be berating myself for not healing quickly.

Anyhow, with the help of the DVD, and a rather intense commitment to core training, I managed to retrain my deep core muscles.  Five months after having the baby, I felt up to daily 3 mile stroller walks; six months post-partum I started gently with a couch-to-5K program.  Kiddo is now fourteen months old, weaned, and things are much improved, and still getting better.  I'm in a position where I can think about a half marathon, and last summer, that seemed to be impossible.

Odd side effect -- all that hip and core strength changed my stride a little.  I used to have to run in motion control shoes and now I seem to be fine in neutral trainers.

Would I run during pregnancy?  I honestly am not sure.  Maybe a little in the first trimester.  But I think I'm living proof that one can decide not to run, and take it very slowly, and get back to it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Plan fine, execution ehhhhh.

7.67 miles yesterday.  It was supposed to be seven but I miscalculated the route.  Here's why.  I absolutely detest running a route that is just a hair too short, and then having to run past my house or do another loop around the block to get the mileage completed.  So I tacked on what I thought was two miles to the start of my run, but it was a little closer to two and a half.  Of course, once one does that at the beginning of a run, there's no choice but to have to run home.

The run went well.  I saw another deer on the trail.  This one was young, and quite a bit smaller than the one I saw earlier in the week, and it stopped and stared at me as I approached before continuing down the side of the mountain.  I admired its fleet feet as it kicked up its heels.

My own heels were dragging a bit.  I'm working on increasing my cadence.  Cadence is one of those things where I'm convinced most of the running community has confused correlation with causation.  Elite runners take around 180 steps per minute; slower runners like me take fewer.  Therefore, we should all aim to take 180 steps per minute.

To be fair, I suppose it's really no different than the logic we hobbyjoggers fall into the rest of the time.  Elite runners wear Brand X's ubershoe; if we wear the ubershoes we will also go fast.  In any case

That said, the sports scientist guys suggested in their book that most runners would benefit from increasing their stride rate by 5-10%.  From experience I know I take about 162 steps per minute while running at an easy pace, so I planned to listen to a Podrunner mix during my long run with a BPM of 165 to gently work on increasing my stride rate.

While the run was fine, the stride work was awful, even as I kept my feet light.  I felt like I couldn't artificially keep the tempo, and my stride felt forced and too short.

When I got home, I realized, I had accidentally uploaded a mix of 160 BPM.

All the planning in the world can't fix airheadedness.  On the plus side, the run consisted of nicely even (for me) splits:

Split Time Distance Avg Pace
1 09:58.5 1 9:58
2 09:56.6 1 9:57
3 09:51.3 1 9:51
4 10:04.9 1 10:05
5 09:48.8 1 9:49
6 09:55.4 1 9:56
7 09:46.2 1 9:46
8 06:37.8 0.67 9:52

I arrived home to the kiddo demanding milk (daddy was sleeping in), and so I stupidly didn't stretch or cooldown properly.  As a result, by late afternoon my joints were not happy, and my evening I spent rolling out my quads with a marble rolling pin while watching Orange is the New Black.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Between the raindrops.

I live near a canyon, so 15mph morning winds are pretty common.  This morning when my alarm went off at 5:30am, however, the winds seemed to be stronger than usual, so much so that I couldn't tell whether it was pouring down rain from the thunderstorms that have been predicted for today, or it was just rustling leaves.

Well, I was too tired/lazy to figure it out.  Sometimes early mornings don't happen for me.  Two hours later I was awakened by the vocal talents of the toddler, who was launching his toys out of his crib.

 Fortunately I was able to sneak out a little bit later for an easy 4.6 mile run at a good clip.  A light drizzle started about halfway through.  I've noticed that runs after breakfast or later in the day tend to feel easier for me than runs first thing in the morning.  I'm attributing that to being awake and having eaten, but it suggests that I might need to make sure I get a good breakfast in on race day.

This week has been hot and sunny, and the garden is really starting to take off.  Most of my ornamental plants are xeric, because my yard is so bright and sunny and hot that even lavender, which grows everywhere, wilts and dies without supplementary water.  With mulch, I need to water only every other today when it's above 95.  I'm hoping once these beauties are established they'll need even less care; spending water on a landscape still strikes me as wasteful.

Munro Globemallow

Veggie garden is coming along, too:

Anaheim pepper.  You can see the drip irrigation system in the back.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Need for speed.

I'm relatively slow, with a comfy pace of around 9:30 or so.  I think I'm slower than my fitness would suggest, and I don't quite understand why.  I suspect it's mostly because I'm a new runner without a childhood history of competitive endurance sports.

(Read:  I kinda suck at pushing the pace.)

Today's workout called for a ten-minute warm-up, then six one-minute all-out running followed by two minutes walking recovery, then a cooldown.

Six AM is an ungodly early hour for intervals, but it beats attempting them in 95 degree heat later in the day....I was not really feeling it this morning.  A little tired, a slightly whiny right knee, and just no desire to get going.  As you can tell from the warm-up:

Split Time Distance Avg Pace
1 10:34.0 1 10:34
3 01:00.6 0.16 6:20
5 01:00.4 0.16 6:16
7 00:59.8 0.16 6:24
9 00:59.1 0.14 6:59
11 00:59.2 0.15 6:30
13 01:00.3 0.15 6:31

I left out the recovery walking because they're dull.  But look!  For short bursts of time, I am capable of mustering some speed!

(Read:  I kinda suspect I'm lazy when it comes to easy run paces...)

The fourth interval (split 9) above was especially great because a giant deer crashed down the mountain, storming across the trail about twenty feet ahead of me.  I'm from Pennsylvania, where deer are these small suburban flower-eaters.   They mill around lawns and are about the size of golden retrievers.  Western deer are beasts. When they crash through a trail, you stop and gawk.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By the numbers.

Today's cross-training involved a date at the gym for some serious technical squat work.  Coach filmed using Coach's Eye, which allowed her to break down our form in slow motion.  I achieve good depth on my squats, but there's a slight catch in my motion just before I bottom out, so my work today was slow (3-count) negative squats, where one squats very slowly and fully, and then powerfully shoots up back to standing.

I have to say that weightlifting is great for my general mobility, and it seems to be keeping my core in line, too.  Fingers crossed.


When I decided to blog my first half-marathon training cycle, I was moved to write largely because I couldn't find any runners like me.  There are:

  • skinny girls who run and take endless selfies and pictures of what they eat.
  • moms who run and post endless pictures of their kids.
  • overweight women trying to lose weight and blogging their weight loss journey.
  • fast, talented runners who post their training programs.
  • men, who get to blog about running without including their children or their dress size.  (uh, figuratively speaking.)

I am:
  • 35 (too old to be Internet cute.  Thank goodness.  I look like the wreck of the Hesperus when I run.)
  • a mother to a one-year-old who I am not going to pimp out for page views.
  • employed
  • in extremely good shape
  • slow as hell.
So I thought maybe someone would want to read about someone with a 9:30ish easy pace who never raced as a kid or young adult, who started running seven months ago because it's the easiest form of exercise to fit in when one has a small person with an unpredictable schedule in their life.

Anyhow, last week I had a doctor's visit.  This will never be a weight loss blog, because the Internet feeds neuroses and disordered eating and I'll not be a part of it.  Let's say I weigh X, where X is a healthy BMI, but in the doctor's judgment, I'm a little too lean.  We both suspect that this is due to training for a half while weaning a baby, but I'm supposed to eat more so I can ward off stress fractures. 

It's nice to have a prescription for chocolate milk. 

But my other numbers were great.  105/65 BP.  55 resting heart rate.  

So it got me thinking about the best way to avoid obsessing over one's weight.  Hard for a woman in a society where "thigh gaps" are now being overtaken by "bikini bridges."  Hard especially for someone like me who enjoys data and quantifying the self and all of that (though I don't own a scale.)  Hard also because there is some small correlation between one's weight and one's health, so ignoring it completely isn't really an option for most people.  

Here's the thing.  If one tracks a lot of numbers, then each number is individually less powerful.  What might a list look like?  Here's a start:
  • Blood pressure.
  • Resting heart rate.
  • Maxes on lifts.
  • Body fat % 
  • Tape measurements (waist, hips.)
  • Hours slept per night.
  • Steps taken per day.
  • 5K time
What would be on your list?