Posts tagged ‘Running’

May 1, 2014

Embracing the Hard Days

This morning’s tempo run was one of those workouts. It started promisingly enough. When I rolled out of bed at 5:30 and checked my calendar to see what was on the schedule, I thought “Great. 5 mile tempo at 8:19. No problem–I ran a 10K faster than that a few weeks ago.” Visions of flitting daintily over the treadmill while watching Sportscenter danced in my head.

Reality, however, is a cruel and sweaty mistress. Thanks to the incessant rain of the past several days and the warm front that just moved in, the gym had transformed overnight into a hot, humid pain cave. By the time I had finished my warm-up, I knew I was in for a rough time. I was already so sweaty that my Yurbuds kept falling out, which NEVER happens and is kind of the point of Yurbuds. (It also raises the unsettling question of whether the insides of my ears were actually sweating.) .05 miles into the actual tempo portion of the run, the cheeriest thought I could muster was, “Well, I’m 1% of the way there.” Generally when this kind of running math pops into my head, I eventually lose interest, or at least lack the blood sugar to maintain the calculations for long. Today, however, I managed to count up, 1% at a time ( and if you’re playing the home game, that’s every 80 meters), for five miles.

It was hot, sweaty, and physically and emotionally draining, which is really everything a tempo run should be. One of my goals for this training cycle has been to get better at embracing the hard days. I made a deal with myself that I don’t have to like it, but I do have to find the good in what is difficult. The heat, the driving rain, and the days when I’m redlining on the last three intervals all make the workout (and ultimately me) that much better. So there.

October 22, 2012

Harvest Smoothie (Or What to do with Leftover Pumpkin Puree)

It’s been overcast for the past few days here in LA, which means that I get to pretend that it’s fall.  In that spirit, I made these wonderful pumpkin bars from Elana’s Pantry yesterday, and as is usual with pumpkin-based baking projects, I now find myself with leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge.  Luckily, I have the perfect solution for the problem—pumpkin smoothies. 

Pumpkin is fairly low in calories and carbs and packs a healthy dose of iron and vitamins A and C, which makes this a great post-workout snack.



½ cup pumpkin puree

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

6 oz. coconut milk

3 drops liquid vanilla stevia

¼ cup yogurt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

¼ tsp. fresh ginger

Add all items to blender and pulse until combined.


Substitutions and variations: I’ve made this with a teaspoon or two of honey instead of stevia if I need to replenish more carbs.  I’ve also used a couple of frozen peach slices to sweeten it up a bit without affecting the pumpkin flavor much.  The fresh ginger really gives it a great warmth if you have it on hand.  If not, powdered ginger will do the trick.

October 8, 2012

Week 1 Recap

Well, I survived Week 1 of training and I learned a few things.  I should start by saying that I had laid out a very aggressive training plan for the next several months that attempted to emulate what I did prior to running my half-marathon PR two years ago.  In the time since the PR, however, a few things have changed.  I’ve gone Paleo and had to completely rework pre-run fueling strategies.  I had the SI joint/IT band injury last year. Following the injury, I added two days of strength training, which I’m currently doing on my two running off-days.  Looking back at my training log, I was also a lot faster when I started training for the PR race, having just come off a decent spring half-marathon.  I was thus left with a bit of dilemma when I laid out a training plan this time.  I wanted to be aggressive with my schedule, and didn’t want to risk re-injuring myself, but I was also committed to keeping the strength training in the mix.

My initial plan (which I knew was somewhat suicidal) ran thus:

Monday – Strength

Tuesday – Interval (5-6 miles)

Wednesday – Easy (5-6 miles)

Thursday – Tempo (5-6 miles)

Friday – Strength

Saturday – Hill (5-6 miles)

Sunday-Long (8-15 miles)

The first thing to note is that there is no rest day in the mix.  The second thing is that I’m totally violating the 75% of mileage at easy paces rule.  I had laid out my interval and tempo workouts per the pace tables in Run Less, Run Faster, which I’ve used over the years and in the process, morphed into Run More, Feel Exhausted.  That scenario pretty much played itself out as I tackled the first week of the schedule.  I took the strength training pretty easy on Monday in an attempt to not be sore for Tuesday’s speedwork.  I was worried about getting off on the wrong foot and not being able to hit my paces in my first interval workout, but I did manage to push through it.  Wednesday I already had to pull back the pace, though, because I felt like my heart rate was getting too high for an easy run.  Thursday I banged out my tempo without too much trouble and felt great.   Friday was strength training again, and then a short hill run on Saturday.

I do most of my hill training on a scenic route through Santa Monica and the Palisades and I was looking forward to quiet streets and modernist architecture.  The route starts at a slight incline (maybe 1-2%) for about a mile, then becomes rolling with some nice climbs and drops of varying length and steepness.  I had been running for about half a mile when I realized that the almost imperceptible slope was already producing that dreaded running-through-molasses feeling.  I gritted my teeth and stuck it out, but it was not a particularly commanding performance. I did my best to shake off the crappiness, though, and was still optimistic going into Sunday’s 10-miler. Rather than being tired the day after a hill workout, I usually feel strong and energized.  Sunday dawned warm and steamy, though, and I quickly realized that I was going to have to rein the pace way in if I was going to make it through 10 miles.  Again, I felt like I needed to creep along at a snail’s pace to keep my heart rate in check.  Some of this, no doubt, was due to the weather, but I was really just not feeling sharp.  All in all, I’m proud of myself for having the discipline to run slowly enough to get through it.  A few months ago I would have taken off at my goal pace, burned out in a few miles, and totally beaten myself up over it.  I am forced to admit, however, that I am going to revamp this schedule to make it workable.

Professionally, I think I’m very good at prioritizing and distilling the big picture down into the critical tasks to be completed.  It is not a skill I’ve applied to running very often.  I realized that I need to approach this problem like I would any other deadline and ask the following questions:

  1. Which workouts are getting me the most bang for my mileage?  Which ones aren’t?
  2. How can I optimize my recovery time?
  3. Am I striking the right balance in types of workouts?

More to come…








October 3, 2012

Fall Race Plans

I’ve spent the past few weeks getting organized for my triumphant (I hope) return to racing.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I approach training and racing, and I realized that it would be advantageous to approach the entire season with a strategy, rather than focusing on one race at a time.  That should have been obvious, I suppose, but having only run track, and not distance, competitively, periodization and peaking were never really on my radar.  Running 100 meters doesn’t take much planning ahead—you run as fast as you can every time.  One of the things I love about sprinting is that it is best executed with your brain turned off.  The chief challenge of distance running for me has been balancing the careful thought and analysis required to craft a successful training schedule with the need to not overthink the runs themselves.

My greatest strength as a runner is that I’m compelled (yes, it’s probably a bit OCD) to complete my training schedule to a T.  I’ve made an effort this past year to tune into my body more and be flexible about making adjustments when I need an extra rest day, but in general I’m by-the-book.  I’m apt to get nervous before races, or even in training runs where I’m trying to sustain a specific pace, so my mantra for this season is Trust Your Training.

With the goal of approaching the entire season as whole and creating a focused training schedule accordingly, I’ve planned three races for the next few months.  At the end of October I’ll be running the LA Cancer Challenge 10K, which I’ve been doing with a friend for the past four years.  It’s a Halloween race and we’ll be running in costume, but I plan to use it as a time-trial to gauge my fitness a month into race-training.  On December 2nd I have the Nittany Valley Half Marathon, which will be a cold and hilly race back home in Central Pennsylvania.  That race should be a good checkpoint and give me a chance to tweak the next month and a half of running in preparation for the Miami Half Marathon at the end of January.

For the next few weeks I’ll be focused on figuring out exactly where I am, speed-wise, and setting appropriate goals for the races.  It’s been annoyingly hot and humid for the past few months in LA, so it’s been hard to gauge my fitness for much cooler winter races.  The weather should be breaking, at least temporarily, this weekend, though, and I’m hoping for some faster long runs in the coming weeks.

On the Paleo side, I’m doing the October Unprocessed Challenge this year. I think it’s a great message and I love month-long experiments as a concept.  It also makes drinking my homebrew beer seem quite virtuous.  I don’t have too many processed food vices, but packaged energy bars and some of my no-brainer convenience snacks have had to go.  I’m continuing to tweak my pre- and post-workout snacks and meals, although I’m intentionally exempting my brown rice syrup-laden energy gels (it’s the arsenic that makes it good!) from the campaign.  With all the other variables and a new training schedule, I don’t want to mess too much with my nutrition while running.

Now that I’m back on the training wagon (or off it and running alongside?), I plan to post much more frequent updates on my schedule a goals.  Stay tuned!

September 11, 2012


I promise to write a more substantial update soon; at the moment I’m neck-deep in a deadline at work.  I’m living the Paleo dream… Today I left the house at 7 something having packed my lunch, dinner, pre- and post-workout snacks, my running clothes, clothes to change into, and all my shower stuff.  I managed to squeeze in 5 miles while the rest of the team was eating dinner, shower, and get back to the office at a respectable hour.  I’m trying to keep up a decent mileage this week, and (assuming I can find time to pack between the deadline Saturday and my flight early Sunday), I’ll be off to the East Coast for a week of family time and hopefully some cooler runs. 

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August 13, 2012

A Running Public Service Announcement

Hello, Lover.

Apologies in advance if this gets a little long, but I think it’s a worthwhile topic and one I’ve never seen addressed anywhere…

A little over four years ago, I signed up for my first race, a half-marathon, and began the most recent running chapter in my life.  I’d loved running as a kid and joined the elementary school track team in 5th grade.  I continued  sprinting through junior high and high school, but by college I was focused on other pursuits.  With a slightly more flexible schedule in grad school I started dabbling in 3-milers again.  I signed up for the half marathon about a year after finishing my masters. The first thing I did was to download Hal Higdon’s beginner training plan and the second thing was to go to the running store to by “real” shoes. 

I had read about gait analysis and the importance of having shoes properly fitted in Runners’ World, but I remember being disappointed in the actual process.  From what I recall, I was told to roll up my pant legs and walk around the store in my stocking feet while the sales guy cocked his head slightly and squinted a little.  I was then told—wait for it—that I pronated slightly and should get a mid-range motion-control shoe.  (Note that this advice applies to 95% of all runners.)  I tried on several models and settled on my beloved NB 768’s.  As I ran more and raced more, I eventually ended up adding another pair and rotated between them.  I kept track of my mileage and dutifully replaced my shoes every 400 miles or so. As my form improved, I found that my shoes were lasting longer (also due to the rotation, no doubt), and I started to stretch it out to 600 miles before I retired them.  Then, last spring, I realized that my oldest shoes had almost 700 miles on them, but actually felt better than the newer ones.  This was not so long after the Born to Run frenzy as well, and I decided to see if they would make it to 800. Then 900. Then 1000.

Enter the marathon.  By then I was running in 3 pairs of 769’s, which had something like 700, 800, and 1000 miles on them, respectively, and they all kept feeling better and better.  I was pounding out 20-milers and Yasso’s by the dozen. About two months in, I started feeling an ache in my lower back, and shortly thereafter, the IT band pain started.  I tried everything, including new shoes, which only seemed to make things worse.  Back to the old 769’s. 


This is what 1,300 miles looks like.

I was still running in the 769’s (now at 900, 950, and 1300) last week, when I got a 25% off coupon for Roadrunner Sports.  I’d been putting off buying new shoes for ages, in part because I knew the stability structure of my current pairs was probably completely gone and I wasn’t looking forward to acclimating to a completely different feel.  Still, 25% off running shoes is not to be turned down, so I decided to actually go to the store rather than order online.  I described my predicament to the salesclerk, complete with the battered 1300-mile 769’s as props.  He suggested I have my gait re-analyzed, which sounded like a reasonable suggestion.   This time around, I actually ran on a treadmill in bare feet with a camera at tread-level recording my footfalls.  I can now report that I have quite a nice neutral mid-foot strike and what are apparently very high arches.  It seems that my stability shoes have, in fact, been rocking my foot precisely the wrong way.  (No surprise that the older they got, the better they felt.)

I left the store with a pair of NB 890’s with which I’m totally smitten.  They’re light and flexible and springy and oh so pretty!  After my first run in them, it became apparent that my old shoes had NO cushioning left and that I had been absorbing everything in my legs. A week in, I’ve had no issues with my calves tightening and the ache in my SI joint seems to be easing as well. 

I’m not totally sure what’s actually happened here.  It’s possible that I was put in the wrong shoes from Day 1 and that the motion control in the shoes contributed to the IT band injury.  What seems more likely to me is that the shoes were fine when I was starting out, but as my feet and legs got stronger I no longer needed the structure.  (I do think my arches have come up a bit since I started running.)  It’s also possible that wearing the old shoes until all the structure broke down actually forced me into a better stride (a la Born to Run).  In any case, this is where the PSA comes in: Get your stride re-checked every now and then. Most of the runners I know are constantly trying to improve their form, but we tend to forget to readjust the equipment accordingly.  And who doesn’t like new shoes?

August 5, 2012

A Milestone and a Fresh Start

I logged my 5,000th mile last week and I kept meaning to write a post about it, but the truth was, I just wasn’t that excited.  I’ve been kind of stuck in a rut lately and generally bored.  Having fought my way back after the IT band injury, I now find myself in the realm of no-longer-injured, but still nowhere near serious race-shape.  I’ve ramped up my weekly mileage a bit and started doing intervals and tempo runs again this past month, and on one level, that feels great.  The difficulty has been that I’m still dealing with a lot of soreness in my hips on top of the normal aches and pains that come with increasing mileage and speedwork.  Rather than feeling like a runner who is actively recovering from an injury, I now just feel like a mediocre runner.

I think I could probably deal with that better if I weren’t always tired and hungry. I’ve been mostly focused on slow runs and strength training for past few months, and to be sure, there have been a lot of benefits to my running as a result.  I’ve put on more muscle, gotten stronger, and I even seem to have improved my hill-running without actually having to run any.  I increased my protein intake by about 20% in that time, and since definitely want to continue the strength training, I will probably need to maintain something near that level.  I’m finding that the added speedwork demands more carbs, however, and I haven’t seemed to be able to hit a balance that’s working yet.  I’ve been thinking that given the muscle I’ve added, dropping a few pounds might help my speed going into race season.  I’ve been trying cutting protein and/or fat, and pretty much the only result has been general crankiness.

After some lack-luster experimentation over the past few weeks, I finally consulted my Paleo Guru friend this weekend.  He sensibly pointed out that the balance I’ve been eating seems to be generally working and, more importantly, is supporting my muscle recovery.  Getting leaner won’t necessarily result in getting faster, and may well just result in me being more tired.  In general, I tend to wake up starving, eat a sizable breakfast, and still not really feel properly full until after lunch.  I usually have a small snack before I run after work, and then eat a dinner to fill whatever nutritional holes I still have left at that point.  The Guru suggested focusing more on refueling from the workout I’d just finished rather than trying to front-load for the day ahead.  If I eat a bigger dinner I should be able to recover more efficiently and also won’t wake up so hungry (which would definitely improve my workday).  He also suggested switching my usual morning smoothie to directly after my workouts, which should replenish my glycogen stores much effectively without adding more carbs overall.  It totally makes sense and I’m looking forward to giving it a try over the next month or so.

I have McConnell’s 10K coming up in a few weeks, which I’m hoping will be a low-pressure event to test out my training and how my hip is responding.  If all goes well, I’d really like to find a half marathon to do this fall.  I have a feeling that getting my nutrition game plan sorted out may go a long way to improving my running overall, and I’m actually kind of excited.

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June 6, 2012

The Starting Line

ImageIt’s National Running Day, and I’m hopeful that this entry will mark my triumphant return to actually blogging about running again.  I’ve signed up for my first race since the SI joint injury last year.  I’ve continued to run throughout that time, but I cut my mileage back significantly, added strength training, and have been doing a lot more hill-walking in an effort to take the stress off the joint and allow it to heal.  I’ve been mostly pain-free for a couple of months now, but I’m still getting some lingering achiness.  I suspect that this may be as good as it gets, though, and I’m anxious to start a training plan again.  The race is just a 5K on the Fourth of July, but it will be great to pin a race bib on again. 

5K’s have never been my forte, and given my months of easy pacing, I’m not out for a PR this time.  I do want to run this race with intention, though.  In the time I’ve spent working through tis injury, I’ve reflected a lot on my approach to training, both mentally and physically.  One of the most surprising things I learned during the down time was that despite my drastically reduced training load, I maintained a higher level of fitness and endurance than I ever would have expected.  Despite the fact that I had replaced my nightly 5-mile runs with a walk one, run three, walk one regimen, I could still bang out the occasional five or six-miler with little difficulty.  I always had a looming fear that if I dropped my mileage for even a week, I’d instantly lose the endurance.  Recovery weeks seemed, while not exactly pointless, like a frustrating stall in the pursuit of constant improvement.  I hate to embody a cliché, but we all know where that got me. 

The other unexpected benefit to the changes I’ve had to make in my training has been finally finding and sticking to a strength-training routine.  I picked up Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred used on Amazon a few months ago, and was shocked at how it destroyed my quads the first few times I did the workouts.  I was a runner after all.  A runner with strong, slightly unladylike quads.  That my legs were somehow unequal to a workout DVD on Level 1 was unthinkable.  I was also unprepared for how much harder the cardio was when it was alternated with strength training.  I kept at the workouts twice a week, though, and was delighted to see (and feel) the results after only about a month.  Aside from curing my runner’s knee (which is in no way insignificant), all the weight training I had ever done at the gym had never produced visible results.  I was floored when after only a few weeks, my massage therapist took one look at my back and asked if I’d started swimming.  I feel stronger than I ever have, even at the peak of my marathon training.  

Suffice it to say, given what I’ve learned in the last few months, I’m rethinking my mileage junky approach to training.  I know that for longer races I’m still going to need the training volume.  I always see a sharp improvement in my fitness when I hit the 40-mile-a-week mark.  Still, I can clearly afford to give up the recovery week paranoia.  I think the real lesson in all of this has been that I haven’t really missed racing at all, but I’ve very much missed the focused training.  I’m religious in my training, and as a result I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform in races.  If I didn’t, I felt like I had let myself down (which may be true), but more than that, I had wasted all the time I spent preparing.  The realization that the preparation is really the fun part for me takes a lot of that pressure off.  My goal this time around is to relish the things I love about training, and to embrace the race for what it is—simply a deadline that lends structure to my running calendar, and an excuse for brunch with cocktails. 

April 11, 2012

More Press on the Dangers of Sugar

Runner’s World has been staunchly pushing high-carb diets for runners for years. I was pleasantly surprised to find this in my RW email tonight.

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November 3, 2011

Brooklyn waterfront run