Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catch Up Post 2: Summer Training

As I mentioned in a previous post, I downloaded a running app that I just LOVE. I decided to download the 5k companion app this summer. Now, I'm an experienced marathoner. I don't need a couch to 5k training program. But after letting my speed, such as it was, slack off while training for Goofy, I wanted to focus on the running portion of my intervals. I like being an interval runner, I don't really want to be an all-runner, but I did want to run longer and faster within my interval routine. I thought this would be a good chance both to add to my Zombie fun and to work on my speed.

The storyline of this app takes place between the first and second missions of "Zombies, Run!" While not critical to the story as a whole, it does add some nice details to round it out. It was fun to learn more about the background of various characters.

The training program was thorough and could be easily adjusted depending on your ability. When I started it, I was only running a quarter mile at a time (I'd run an occasional mile during my years of running, but I really like my intervals). By the end of the program, I could run a full 5 miles without a walk break! Since then, I've worked my way up to 10 miles of all-running!

My only complaint with the app is that the last mission, the 5k run, is based on time, not actual distance. I'd gotten so fast (for me, anyway), I ended up going almost twice as far. If I'd been running an actual race instead of just through the neighborhood, I'd have had a lot of story left at the end.

I still love my intervals and use them on longer runs, but many of my shorter runs are now all running. And even on interval runs, my overall speed has improved a LOT. More on that in my next race report.

Catch Up Post 1: Race Report

This poor blog has gotten a bit neglected. I wanted to post a race report for my October race, only to realize I never did one for my April race! And I also wanted to update about my summer training, a couple more bra reviews, and being studied. I'll probably have a flurry of posts, and then nothing for months again. ;)

So without further ado, here's my (short) report. On April 26, I ran the Illinois Christie Clinic Half Marathon for the third year in a row. After focusing on endurance for the Goofy Challenge in January, I'd slacked off on speed a lot. In the months between, I worked on building my speed back up and was hopeful of setting a PR. Unfortunately, I tripped on the stairs a few days before this race and badly bruised two toes. It was a minor setback, though, and I was still able to run.

This year, my awesome Papa Runner stayed home with the kids and let me go with my sister, A. My dad was also running, so A and Mom went around together to see us in several places. It was fun seeing them in the crowd. I ended up finishing with a time of 2:49:08, my (at the time) second best finish despite my injury. In fact my three best times (at the time) all came at this race. I love the course! Next April, I hope to do a full there, too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bra Review III: Shock Absorber

It doesn't look like this on me...
Over a year since my last bra review, I'm finally getting around to number 3: The Shock Absorber.

I asked my running friends for recommendations, and this was one that came up. It's a compression bra with racer back. I ordered it online and waited with great anticipation. 

First the pros. It's made with cooling fabric (big plus for me!) and comes in real sizes. It does have a short length of adjustable strap in the back to customize the fit. It is very supportive with little bounce. I've had it over a year and it's held up well.

Now for the cons. When I tried it on for the first time, I found I had a cleavage bubble popping out in front and extra rolls of "fat" under the arms. It didn't hold everything in. I thought I had gotten the wrong size (UK cup sizing vs my usual European or American) so I exchanged it for a bigger cup. I had the same problem with the bigger size! I realized it isn't the size that's the problem, it's the cut. It's a compression bra that isn't *quite* full coverage. It compresses the tissue right up over the top and out the sides. Not only does this make for a weird silhouette under my shirt, the extra "fat rolls" get chafed if I don't remember to lube them up. This might just be a problem with the particular style I got, but since it's the one recommended for curvy ladies, it's strange that it wouldn't actually have enough coverage for all the curves.

I give this bra a C+. I do love how supportive and cool it is, but I just can't get past the overflow problem. I don't let it go to waste, of course. This is my go-to bra for speed workouts or stair training where I change pace a lot, get really hot, and have high bounce potential.

Note: I received no compensation for this review. This is just my experience and opinion. If you've tried this bra, feel free to share yours in the comments.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Major Lifestyle Change

I recently started following a Paleo eating plan. How I came to this decision is kind of a long story probably no one cares about, so I'll skip it. I also won't go into too much detail about how to go about following it, because I'm still very new to it and would hate to give wrong information. If you want to know more about the diet, I suggest starting here and here. I did want to share about my results so far.

I am 99.9% sure I have an autoimmune disease called Primary Raynaud's Disease. I've never been formally diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms plus a family history. Basically, my body attacks the nerves connected to small blood vessels. When these damaged nerves are exposed to cold, the blood vessels spasm and pinch off. It's very painful. I have extensive nerve damage all over my body from this. I'm 99.9% sure I had an active attack over the winter, because it got a lot worse. The biggest reason I wanted to try this eating plan is because it eliminates foods that can cause inflammation, thus helping with autoimmune symptoms.

Today is day 33. I want to be very honest about this first part: The first three weeks were horrible. Your body detoxes from all of the junk you've been eating over the years. These toxins are stored in fat tissue, and when you no longer take in new junk, the old junk pours into your blood stream so it can be processed. I had headaches, fatigue, stomach issues, muscle aches, mood swings, it was ROUGH. BUT if you can tough it out through this phase, you come out feeling pretty great. (Also, the fat that was storing all these toxins is no longer needed, and the weight often comes off quickly. I lost 7lb the first week and am down a total of 12lb over 4.5 weeks. This was not my primary purpose, but it's a great side benefit!)

I committed to following the diet for two months to give it a try, and then would reevaluate. I'm already seeing fantastic results. This past Saturday, Papa Runner and I were at the Empire State Building at sunset. Once the sun went down, it got cool quickly what with the height and the breeze.

He asked me if I was cold.
"No, I'm not cold."
 He gave me a look and said, "Are you sure, because I'm cold and if I'm cold, you're freezing."
"No, I'm really not cold."
He reached out and touched my arm and said, "Hon, you're freezing."

And that's when I realized, I was cold. But I wasn't in pain! This is the first time in probably 20 years I've been cold without also being in pain. I am rather shocked by this. I was just hoping to prevent any further nerve damage. I didn't really expect the old damage to reverse, and certainly not after only 4 weeks. So I have to say, I'm pretty sold on this eating plan. I'm not completely healed, though. On our way home, we were in an airport restaurant that was really cold. After about 30 minutes, I had spasms in my fingers and feet. But this is still a huge improvement; normally it would have happened in less than 5 minutes.

I'm still working out the kinks of this plan, especially with regard to endurance running. Since I'm not carb loading, I don't seem to have as much energy for long runs. I'm trying to get more sweet potato and squash into my diet on my running days. I also used to run with sports beans and sports drinks, both of which are now off limit. I've replaced the beans with dried fruit and nuts and the drink with fruit infused water with a little salt added, and that seems to do the trick for me. Overall, though, I think I can stick with this long term.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Zombies, Run!

It's been a while since I posted. Thought it was time to review my new favorite running app for iPhone and iPod, "Zombies, Run!" I heard about it from a fellow runner in the start corrals at Disney, and I knew immediately it was the perfect app for me.

This app combines a number of fun factors. First, it's a sci-fi story of the Zombie Apocalypse. The program alternates Orson Welles-style story segments with songs from your chosen play list. Just load the story, pop on your headphones, and start running. The first mission begins a couple months into the end of the world as you fly into a survivor camp in a helicopter. You are shot down in the middle of zombie territory and must run to the camp, guided by the voice on the radio. Once safely inside, you're given the position of Runner 5. Other missions include picking up supplies, warning people of an impending attack, and discovering what caused the disaster. I'm about half way through Season One, and Season Two was just released this week. This is a great motivator to go out for another run so you can find out what happens next.

Second, it's an interval training program using an optional chase mode. When turned on, about once a mile you will hear, "Zombies approaching," followed by beeping to let you know how close they are. You need to run 20% faster for one minute to evade the zombies. I'm already an interval runner, so this is great for me. I don't usually use it on long runs, though, since I don't want to burn too much energy at once, but I love it for short runs.

There's also a couch-to-5k style companion app. It's not crucial to the story, but it does add some supplemental detail as well as give a good 8-week training for beginner runners. I haven't used it, being a more experienced runner, but I may just to try it out for fun.

Third, it's a Farmville-style game. As you run, the game will pick up supplies like batteries, canned food, and ammunition  When you get back home, you can distribute your supplies to build up your survivor camp, deciding if you need to prioritize the hospital, armory, or housing first.

On top of that, it tracks your stats so you can see how well you're doing with your training. I just love it! And  to make things extra-epic, I made my playlist the soundtrack to several big adventure movies: Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars. There's just nothing like hearing Sam say, "Watch out for zombies on your left," followed by Darth Vader's Theme, The Ride of the Rohirrim, or the March of the Dead Pirates.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Very Goofy Race Report

Before the Donald
Oh, what an awesome weekend it was! Papa Runner and I flew to Orlando on Thursday the 10th and headed straight to the Expo to get my race bib and goody bag. I got three long sleeve t-shirts, one for the Half, one for the Full, and an additional one for doing Goofy's Challenge. I bought a cool technical jacket, too, with the Goofy's Challenge insignia (in pink!) and a new sports bra to try (review to follow once I've worn it a few times).

We spent Friday relaxing and enjoyed spending some time with relatives in the area. We ate at the hotel restaurant and headed to bed early.

One downside to races at Disney is they start so early in an attempt to beat the heat. Step off is at 5:30, and they recommend planning to arrive by 4:30. We got up at 3:00. Of course, being in the last corral meant I didn't actually start until almost 6:30.

The half marathon was very crowded. Because I'm an interval runner, there is a lot of passing people during the running portion and being passed back during the walk. Also, almost everyone around me was also an interval runner, so there were a lot of watches beeping. I had to keep checking to make sure I wasn't supposed to be switching pace.

Day one done, one to go!

Disney puts on a great race. There's lots of entertainment. I know for myself, though, I can't stop to get pictures with the characters. If I stop to wait in line longer than a couple minutes, I cramp up.

The Half course starts at Epcot, goes past the Richard Petty race track, then on to Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom, and back to Epcot.

I had made a strong race plan. I'd trained for 15-minute miles. I was to keep to that for at least 8 miles, then I could slow down and save my energy for day two. That's exactly what I did. By the end, I was just strolling in. I finished in 3:22:23, which incidentally isn't my worst time. I finished the Disney Princess Half in 3:22:24!

Lots of stretching, rehydrating, and some time in the cold pool at the hotel was on the agenda for recovery. Then we had supper at Olive Garden, and another early bedtime before getting up at 3:00 for Day Two.

Ready for Day Two
One of the hardest things about this race, oddly enough, is that the pre-race entertainment is so good. I love to dance, and it was a challenge to restrain myself so as not to burn all my energy before I even started. The other big challenge was the heat. Once the sun came up, the temperature quickly rose to mid 80's.

The Full Marathon started with the same course as the Half. Once we got out of Magic Kingdom, though, we headed onto the Richard Petty track rather than going around. That was fun! They had lots of classic and current muscle cars as well as Lightning McQueen and Mater. After that, we headed to Animal Kingdom. You go in through a back gate next to, according to a guy near me, the T-rex paddock. (Actually the elephant paddock, but it did look a lot like Jurassic Park.) By that time, the parks had opened to the public. Most of the guests were supportive, but a few were annoyed they had to wait for runners to move through before they could walk where they wanted to go. I told a few of them they should run next year so they could annoy others.

Next up was the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. They have a lot of high school competitions for various sports there, as well as the spring training complex of the Braves. That ended up being one of the hardest parts for me. By then the heat was in full force. Disney did its best to keep us cool, passing out wet sponges and having people at the water stops dumping water over everyone. It was great that Papa Runner was able to take a bus down and meet me at mile 19 to take my crown (I was so over it), refill my water bottle, and dump some water over my head. It was just the encouragement I needed.

Like the day before, I had planned to maintain my 15 minute mile pace until mile 20 and then relax. I was able to stick to that pretty well. Once we left ESPN, everyone had slowed down a lot. Even though I had slowed off my usual pace, I was still faster than most of those around me. Big thanks to my TeamUp coaches and friends for training me so well.

Last up was the World Promenade before heading back into Epcot. I got a little teary as I passed mile 23, the point where I had to quit in my last race. It was also around that point I saw several people being treated for heat exhaustion. This was the worst race I've been to for that.

Check out the bling!
After three races at Disney (Princess, Half, and Full) my absolute favorite spot of course entertainment is the Black Southern Baptist Choir about .2 before the finish line. You can't help but feel joyful when you've got three dozen people clapping their hands and singing Hallelujah! And then you turn the last corner and there's the finish line! Final time: 6:41:18!

Goofy's Challenge has been my Crazy Impossible Goal for almost five years. It was absolutely amazing to achieve it! Now I need to start planning my next CIG.

One last order of business: Shirley gets the Cold Stone gift card for the Half, Melodee for the Full. Thanks for the encouragement, ladies! I'll get your cards to you soon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Goofy Race Weekend, Contest

My Christmas Present: Race Shirt
It's finally here! I'm dropping the kids off at Grandma's today, and Papa Runner and I head to Disney tomorrow. I feel ready, but I'm the tiniest bit nervous about the course time limit.

I've run at Disney before. They do a wave start, and then the Sweeper Team starts a few minutes after the last wave. The time limit (3:30 for the half and 7:00 for the full) begins when the sweepers cross the start. As long as you are ahead of the sweepers, you will get your medal and official finish time even if you go over according to chip time. So someone who starts in an early group who, say, sprains an ankle and limps in with a 4-hour half will still get a medal. I've also heard that once you get past the final checkpoint (it's around 10.5 miles in the half, not sure for the full), you'll be allowed to finish even if the sweepers pass you.

Here's the potential problem. First, I'm starting in the last wave, so I have very little cushion between me and the sweepers. Second, I have to be under the course time limit according to chip time in both races in order to get my Goofy medal. If I finish in, say, 3:35 and/or 7:05, I'll still get my Donald and Mickey, but not the Goofy. I've been training for a 3:15/6:30 finish, but that doesn't give me much of a window if I struggle, especially for the half. Plus, the key to this race is energy management. I can't go out too fast day one and expect to have enough energy day two. I have to be in that 3:15-3:30 window in the half in order to have hope of 6:30-7:00 in the full and my medal trifecta. MUST! FOLLOW! the PLAN! I WILL do it, and it'll be AWESOME! (but prayers and positive thoughts are appreciated.)

And with that, it's time for another Guess My Finish Time contest. Once again, Price is Right Rules, closest to my official chip time without going over. (My sisters had quite the rivalry with my Little Rock race, one was over by just a few seconds and technically closer, the other won.) You are always so encouraging, telling me I'll be much under my stated goal, but this time I really do have to be between 3:15-3:30 and 6:30-7:00. So don't underbid too much.

Just leave a comment with your guesses for the Half and the Full. The two winners (one for each race) will receive a $5 gift card from Cold Stone Creamery. Not the healthiest, but hey, I'll be there anyway celebrating my accomplishment (positive thinking! See the crown; be the crown!) so it'll be easy to pick up the cards. Guesses must be submitted by start time the day of the races, so 5:30EST Saturday for the half and 5:30EST Sunday for the full.