Taper Advice Request From Mrs. Richard Simmons

I just wrapped up Week 10 of training for the Heartland 39.3 Challenge, which is the highest mileage week of the program…the crescendo, the height of pain and pleasure, the peak in the training program where I always either start to feel like the shit or begin berating myself up for not being in a better state and begin talking nonsense like “I just want to enjoy the race!”

This training program has been interesting (Hal Higdon’s Advanced Plan), as I’ve discussed before.  I’ve basically modified it every week, since I can’t bring myself to run 6 days each week–3-5 race pace miles on Fridays, then a long run on Saturdays (up to 2 hours now), continuing Sunday through Wednesday with speed work and tempo runs included.

I’ve adapted the program most weeks by dumping the easy run the day after the long run (although I did do it last week and felt great.)

So last week I had a kickass 5-mile race pace run on Friday (averaging 8:22 without very much effort…riding on the NY Marathon high perhaps?) and then followed up with a fantastic 12.3 mile easy run on Saturday (averaging 9:35).  I made a very mellow playlist and took things soooo slow and easy.  My playlist was pretty ridiculous…like Sweatin’ to the Oldies.  I am an elderly woman.

Here is a sample…find any running inspiration here?  I did.


I have to ask, looking at this playlist photo…does an explicit version of Kenny Loggins’ Heart to Heart even exist?

Tell the truth, bitch

Don’t fucking turn away

From this one last chance

To touch each other’s heart

Is that out there somewhere?  Dare I dream?

I came home on a runner’s high, which is not good for HH, since that means I will talk about my run in infinite detail.

airplane meme

Poor HH.

Now for my question…I am hoping for some advice from my fellow running fiends.  The Advanced plan calls for me to do another 2-hour long run this weekend (the weekend before the first half.)  It then calls for a bit of tapering during the week (2 miles instead of 3, a speed workout, a 30-minute tempo run, and then two days rest before the race.)

Does this seem like enough tapering to you?  Basically, I am just wondering if it’s okay that I will be running over 12 miles the weekend before.  Most plans that I’ve followed in the past have called for a reduction in mileage for the last long run before the race.  I know that Hal knows what he is doing with his plans, but I am just wondering if I’m up to heeding his call or if I would be better off to run something like 9-10 instead.  I felt strong this weekend and completed the 2-hour run easily, so that makes me think I’m okay to do another one, but I don’t want to come in tired and not at my potential, especially when I’ve worked so hard this cycle on speed and have another two half marathons in the four weeks following the race.

I will appreciate and welcome any thoughts/suggestions/advice.  Many of my running readers are far faster and more experienced than I am, so I am looking to you for your expert judgment (and any info on whether Kenny Loggins ever released a raunchy or explicit version of his seminal song, Heart to Heart.)


The Ten Types of People Who Annoy Me During Races

Wanna know a secret?  I’m competitive.  Super competitive.  Like kick-my-own-child’s-ass-at-a-game-because-he-shouldn’t-win-unless-it’s-for-real competitive (I did make exceptions in the preschool years, so don’t get all judgy on me.  The boys have won plenty of Candyland games in their day, but now we’re on to poker, chess and Blokus, and the gloves are off.)

It’s like I’m one of the new Ben and Jerry’s core flavors, but instead of peanut butter fudge down the center, I’ve got a stubborn streak of dog-eat-dog.

This ruthless streak has nothing to do with ability.  I can know that I’m not going to do well at something, maybe even that I’m horrible at it, but my desire to compete rears its ugly head regardless of my chances, and I go all out.

I once strained a muscle outperforming my 10-year old niece on her new Dance Dance Revolution game for Wii.  Yes, I realize it wasn’t a competition.  No, I’m not proud.  I just had to have a high score.

Ain’t no shame

ladies do your thing

Just make sure

you’re ahead of the game

Is it any surprise that I turned to running in my thirties after having two kids and becoming a stay-at-home mom?  No, likely not.  Running fulfills that need for competition, that drive and goal orientation that marked my teens and twenties and is so missing in my SAHM life.  It brings my increasingly scattered mind to heel and then frees it in a way that the rest of my day can never do.

It gets me firing on all cylinders, and I love it.  I love random running, I love training and I love races.  I imagine that much of what I’m typing is here resonates with all my running readers.  I am not unique in that sense.

Would you be surprised to know that I run a little bitchy during races?  Yes, my snarkiness is directly proportional to my level of suffering, which is usually on high during races as I tend to go all out.  I’m never afraid to turn my physical/mental struggle into hatred toward other runners, and here is where I wonder if I differ from the running pack a bit.  I read a lot of runners’ stories about the great atmosphere of races and how amazing they are.  There is personal pain and agony, to be sure, but the overall theme of race recaps is so positive (I’ve written a few myself..my last half in October was a wonderful warm and fuzzy race for me, but it was an abberation.)  Where’s the nastiness?

Does anybody get as annoyed as I do by others during races?  Maybe I’ve been reading a little too much Angry Jogger (dear lord, I love that Irishman and his angry streak), but I’m letting it all out today…

Here is my list (perched on my throne of running perfection, of course) of the 10 types of runners who annoy the living shit out of me during races!

You people annoy me:

Type 1:  You can’t Fing line up in the right spot–You see those pacers?  Those flags they’re holding up with projected finish times?  They mean something, idiot.  If you’re expecting to run a 2:45 half marathon, DO NOT line up near the 1:55 pace group.  You deserve my size 9.5 foot and custom orthotic shoved straight up your ass.

Not knowing your projected time is not an excuse.  Take the time to make an educated guess.  If you aren’t even to that point with your running, then err on the side of starting further back in the line.  You cause real problems for other runners who have to work their way around you (often with a stampede of thousands of runners behind them, just waiting to crush the course!), and that screws with my potential PR and could lead to twisted ankles.  AND PLEASE, GOD FORBID, DO NOT LINE UP WAY AHEAD OF YOUR PROBABLE FINISH TIME IF YOU ARE TYPE 2!

Type 2:  You do jog/walk intervals–Hey, welcome to the race.  I mean it.  I know that intervals are how some people do their races, and I’m not trying to bag on the method.  I’m just saying that you annoy me when I’m behind you and you suddenly stop for your walk break.  Some of you try to be nice and look behind you before you do that or move to the side first, and bless you!  But some just suddenly come to a halt.  You deserve my size 9.5 foot and custom orthotic shoved straight up your ass.

Please, Type 2ers, line up further back.  Most of you tend to be slower runners anyway if you’re not up to running the whole race.  Just let the main throng pass, and then get out there and get after it!  Good luck to you!

Type 3:  You come to a stop in the middle of the course and then stroll sideways toward the aid station–Seriously?  Does anyone else see this sometimes?  What are these people thinking?  Do they want to kill the rest of us?  Oh, and their kissing cousin is the runner who grabs a drink then steps casually back out without looking first.  Just go away.  I am aching to shove my foot up your ass.

Type 4:  You’re running in a group with matching t-shirts–Okay, so it’s not the shirt that’s the problem; it’s what it typically signifies.  You are likely jogging 5-6 wide, chatting about what a dicksmack so-and-so is and giggling as you amble along.  It’s often your first race, you’re in it together (girl power!), and you’re only as fast as your slowest runner.  Camaraderie rules, you usually line up too close to the front, and you’re often spotted running right up the middle of the street.  I can never get around you easily.

Move bitch

Get out the way

Get out the way bitch

Get out the way

Guess what?  I wish I had four more feet, because each of you deserves my foot shoved straight up your ass.  Best of luck once I get past you though!

Type 5:  You’re wearing a Camelbak, and it’s a 5k–This really is snarky, and I know it’s not anything I should care about.  I’m willing to admit that I’m a bitch.  Your hydration is your business.  I’m just being honest…it makes me laugh and yet somehow annoys me at the same time.

Type 6:  You’re wearing a singlet/tank, and you have copious amounts of shoulder and back hair–I get it, dude.  You’re bringing along a fur coat that the rest of us aren’t burdened with, and the shit gets hot!  Still, if I could run up behind you and fashion two Heidi braids from your shoulder hair, then I think I speak for all of us when I plead for a short-sleeve mesh tee or at least a tank with wide coverage across the shoulders.  Having said that, I should now apologize to anyone who ends up behind me and gets a detailed view of the stretch marks on the backs of my thighs.

Type 7:  You’re a real fit bitch–You’re often found racing in just your sports bra and teeny shorts.  Your thighs are the size of toned hot dogs, but with insane yet feminine amounts of muscle.  You don’t sweat, you just glow.  I often catch a glimpse of you as we run in the same pack (usually briefly, as you are always faster than me)…me with stray frizzy hair flying around my beet-red race, half-drooling and arms flailing, you gliding along like the beautiful talented runner that you are.

The foot and orthotic that I’d like to shove up your ass dwarf your entire body…except for your perfect boobs.  You probably pushed out two lovely kids with no drugs and don’t even pee when you sneeze.

Type 8:  You insist on running right up the pacer’s ass–I’ve only tried to run once with a pace group (last year’s marathon.)  I might have stuck with it longer, but one gal really annoyed me.  She would do anything to make sure that she stayed directly behind the pacer, literally on his left heel.  She was ruthless and infringed on people’s space many times.  As I was running at the back edge of the group, I saw it all and found it irksome and distracting.  I left the group at the Mile 9-10 aid station.

Type 9:  You’re a persistent spitter/belcher/snot rocket blower–At the side of the course is one thing, but right in the middle is rude, imho.  Boogers on my Brooks?  Not cool!  Anyone with me?

Type 10:  You can’t run in a Fing straight line or drastically change pace out of nowhere–Annoying as hell and takes me out of my zone.

Who annoys you during races?  Surely I’m not the only bitchy runner during these things!

I hope no one takes offense to this post…I was just trying to have fun, and I am far from perfect!

The Good, the Bad and the Coronita, Plus Running Truths for Newbie Runners

Let’s sum up the weekend quickly.  Friday night involved dinner at our friends, a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity and a few too many of these…


I didn’t win at cards, but when it came to next morning hangovers, I was the champ.  Those sneaky Coronitas left me feeling pretty pathetic on Saturday, so I scrapped my scheduled 3-miler.  I lounged on the couch instead and chilled with the family.  That was bad.  I felt like a loser (mainly because I was one.  Let’s call it like it is.)

The good part of Saturday?  My baby turned 12!  Here he is last night with his second birthday cake of the weekend (HH provides a lovely photobomb here.)

I love my new 12-year old!  And he loved his new Lego King’s Castle that you see on the counter…

ImageThat was the good…well, that and my 9-mile run yesterday morning.


I needed to get out and have a good long run to finish my second week of training, and I did.  The wind was calm, so I was nice and comfy the whole way, though I did feel a little like Randy from A Christmas Story.  My splits got faster with each mile, and I had to hold myself back so I wouldn’t go under 9:15.  It felt wonderful, and I finished with no fatigue.  Yippee for me, and hooray for my new Garmin Forerunner 220 that I purchased with Christmas gift cards.  I needed this thing like Anthony Kiedis needs a shirt and a stylist!

Some things you just can’t unsee…

So. Damn. Bad.  I think you can skip the belt when you’re shirtless, dude.

And now I leave you with a short Monday list of Running Truths for Newbie Runners…self-evident to me, perhaps not to others.  Feel free to add contributions in the comments and/or to disagree.  This might become a regular segment.

If You Are a Beginning Runner:

Never do an out-and-back run with an untried distance or a big jump in mileage.  Having to quit or come up with a muscle strain/cramp/injury with a long walk home sucks.

Always stretch after runs.

Never get in a race on a treadmill with some random person next to you (I admit that I race with unaware strangers to this day, but I don’t recommend it for newbies!)

Never decide one day that you’re going to start running and set a marathon as your first race (see my previous bitchy post on this topic here.  And may I add that the lovely gal and fabulous blogger got sidelined with a common running injury during Jeff Galloway’s pathetic training program and couldn’t run for months.  No marathon for her.)

Always invest in decent running socks, and if you’re running beyond three miles a few times/week, get yourself a proper pair of running shoes (preferably with a treadmill analysis at a running store.)

Never underestimate the potential pain of bloody nipples.  If yours can cut glass when hard, tape them, men, please.  Every time I see bloody nipples, I die a little inside.  Please, think of me and have some compassion.  🙂

Never run in 100% cotton.  You don’t have to spend a lot, but get yourself some moisture-wicking gear.  Please.  Chafing is a friend to no one.

Never increase mileage more than 10% per week.  Did you just start running last week, got high on the endorphins and now you ran 4 miles three times already since Sunday (and it’s Thursday?)  Oh my God, you are so kickass…and when you come up lame here soon, let me know.  I will send you a sympathy card.  Seriously…start slow.  Don’t be afraid to start with a jog/walk regimen.  Build up the time on your feet, with at least 70% of your running time spent jogging at a comfortable slow pace.  I always put a few songs on my long run playlists that I can’t help but sing to…and I sing them under my breath to make sure that I am keeping my pace where it needs to be (and just to show you that I have no shame, I will list those songs at the end of this post.)  Your entire body–muscles, ligaments, tendons–needs to get used to the pounding of running.  It’s not just about willpower.  I want you to be a lifelong runner, so don’t get hurt or give yourself a chronic injury right off the bat.  Oh, and if you are one of those exceptional people who was born to run and can just take off like a fricking gazelle with no running background?  I hate you :-).  Mazel tov!

Always be thankful.  Every run is a gift.  A good run puts you closer to nature, closer to your pure sense of self.  Your heart, lungs, legs, everything working together, testing your mental and physical limits…it’s pure perfection, and so many would love to be doing what you’re doing.  Take a moment to appreciate it.

And finally…Always act promptly when a BM feels like it falls off a cliff into your lower bowels and then starts chug-chug-chugging through your colon.  Take it from an experienced (average, but experienced) runner…the time to act is now!  Just google “chocolate rain” if you have a strong stomach.

Happy running, readers!

Cheesy-ass songs I check my pace with because I can’t help but belt them out:  We Belong Together by Mariah Carey, Giving You the Best That I’ve Got by Anita Baker, Jukebox Hero by Foreigner, Forrest Gump by Frank Ocean, Love on Top by Beyonce, Solid by Ashford and Simpson, Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds, We’re in This Love Together by Al Jarreau, Takin’ It To the Streets by the Doobie Brothers, Baby-Baby-Baby by TLC.

Allow Myself to Introduce…Myself

Any Austin Powers fans out there?

I’ve been gone for so long…and I’m sorry.  Not that anyone’s been unable to go on without reading my special blend of running encouragement mixed with a healthy dose of swearing and negativity, but still…I apologize.

I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed reading about my fellow runners/bloggers and their lives.  I’ve missed it all.  I just can’t quit you!

I mulled over several possible post titles in my head this morning, all of which happened to be song titles and have me singing–

Please forgive me cues Bryan Adams…

I know not what I do

Please forgive me

I can’t stop loving you (yuck!)

Baby I’m Back cues Akon…

Now I’m back in the flesh

Feeling so blessed

Back in your corner, suga suga don’t stress

Forget about the rest

Let’s go inside

I’m back in your zone, baby

Back in your vibe

Alive and Kicking cues Simple Minds…

You turn me on

You lift me up

Like the sweetest cup I’d share with you

You lift me up, don’t you ever stop, I’m here with you

And basically this kind of shit is the reason I can’t get anything done lately.

I’m all over the place.  I might have seasonal ADD, if there is such a thing.

December came and went in a flash.  We had the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tapdanced with Danny Fucking Kaye…complete as always with a family viewing of White Christmas.

My family White Elephant gift exchange was a big hit.  Gifts included a horse mask, cold hard cash, a picture of an astronaut sloth, a singing toilet snowman, a handpainted coffee mug, and my husband entering the room in a parody of Dick in a Box (no one wanted his gift but me!)  My gift was a cross stitch…I am horrifically UNcrafty, so my gift was truly a labor of love.  It read, “Your Awesome.”  HH battled it out with my sister and came up the proud winner.

I also spent many hours stitching a (still unfinished) gift for my sister…Jocking the Bitches and Slapping the Hos (any Boyz-N-The-Hood fans?)

I had another birthday…41!  It’s not the years, it’s the mileage, right?  Right.

We had a frozen water line…damn you Polar Vortex!

Our fridge went out and we spent over a month heading out to the one in the FREEZING garage while a very strange repair guy kept coming out trying to fix the old one (and engaging me in strange conversations about his dancing Border Collie and other random thoughts.)  After six weeks, we gave up and bought a balls-to-the-wall kickass new one, but not before said repair guy dropped one final gem.  He told me that he had discovered a pill that makes bugs explode but comes in a food grade that kills parasites in dogs.  He and his wife occasionally take it for more energy, and they recently gave it to their 4-year old daughter and later found clumps of worms in her diaper.

Yep, I’ve been busy living the dream, folks!

As for running?  Well, I pushed it aside for the holidays and only managed 1-2 runs/week, so any posts during that time would have been titled, “Run, Says the Sloth!”  I tried to run just enough to not lose my fitness.  After a few weeks of few running endorphins, but lots of peanut butter balls, cookies, and holiday vino, I headed out with my running coach Oscar (my dog) and had an exhilarating, mind-clearing, sanity-restoring 4-miler on my birthday…so fun that I posted on facebook my goal for a 1:50 half marathon sometime in 2014….

then I woke up the next morning with bursitis in my hip.

At first I thought it might be my IT band, just really high.  The pain was on my side, lower hip, not my glute but not far enough around to be my quad.  I applied my tried-and-true adaptation of the R.I.C.E.(W!) regimen…sitting on the couch with my ass and saddlebag hanging out on a pack of ice while nursing a medicinal glass of wine postdinner.   I tried to run again with Oscar two days later.  Same problem, and pain with every step throughout the day, especially on stairs.

So I rolled it.  Big mistake.  I made it angry.  Finally, I consulted Dr. Internet and realized that it was the start of bursitis, and instead of rolling out sore muscle tissue, I applied a significant (ahem!) amount of body weight on the bursa sac in my hip.

Oops!  My bad!

trochanteric hip bursitis


Disclaimer:  My ass is not this ridiculously tight

hip bursitis


Bursitis scares me.  It makes me think OLD, for some reason, maybe because it makes me think of bunions, which I know are totally unrelated.  Still, it just seems like an old person injury.

“Boys!  Bring me an icepack…my bursitis is killing me!”  See?

It also scares me because I know it’s one of those injuries that can quickly become chronic, and between you, me and the entire internet, I’ve got enough chronic pain with my plantar fasciitis (“Boys!  Bring me my frozen water bottle…my plantar fasciitis is killing me!”)

So I took a few more days off and tried to figure out what went wrong.  I knew that I’d pushed it with my lack of running, but please—after ten years of running, I know my running base and my injury inclinations, and my hips don’t get injured (they don’t lie either…wink!).

FINALLY I figured it out.  The problem was the waist leash I wear with Oscar!  I was wearing it too low across my hips…like an airplane seatbelt or this year’s Christmas cookies.  It was a trauma injury from where the belt smacked my side.

Adjustment made…now I wear it at belly level, where this year’s Christmas cookies also reside, but where there are no fluid-filled sacs.  Problem solved.  I also spent some extra time at the gym working on isolated hip strengthening exercises.

If you have bursitis or are trying to figure out hip issues and pain, here are a few great articles that I found helpful, including some exercises…and I found the single knee bend exercise to be very helpful and informative.






Now I’m 100% and one week into my training for my next racing goal–the Heartland 39.3 Challenge.  It’s three half marathons in five weeks.  The first race is Rock the Parkway on April 12th.

I’m on the fence between Hal Higdon’s Intermediate and Advanced Half Marathon programs.  I want to run the most that I can in order to feel prepared, but the Advanced program calls for 6 days/week of running, and the first long run was 90 minutes with the last 1/4 at goal race pace, and my buddy Hal said you should finish feeling refreshed, not fatigued.  Um, right.  I decided to run 6 miles slow and 2 at close to goal pace, which ended up being around 9:25 for the slow part and 8:45 for the last two miles (my legs were getting tired and I was running into hurricane-force winds.)  I ended up stopping at 1:16 and figure that’s good enough for Week One.  I also took the next day off because my legs felt like they needed it.  I’ll try to do the full 6-day program next week.

If you’ve stuck with this long post, thanks for reading and not giving up on this post or on me!  I am so glad to be back writing, and I’ve missed you!

What I’m running to:  Psylla by Glass Animals, Shake Your Body Down to the Ground by the Jacksons

Tips for Hills: How to Let Your Freak Flag Fly

I am barely recovered from hosting Thanksgiving…barely.

Is that a carrot in your cavity, or are you just happy to see me?


Still, there’s no time to rest on the laurels of a food-poisoning-free holiday.  There are errands to run–

Grande nonfat Peppermint Mocha, no whip, just two pumps of syrup…


and cards to send–


There are Mizzou games to attend this weekend in Atlanta (yes, we are going!)–

And (fortunately?) there are runs to fit into the mix.

Do you plan your run routes to avoid hills?  I used to.  For years I felt like I was terrible on hills (and I was.)  Especially as a beginning runner–I felt my legs turn to stone the minute I hit the teeniest incline.  Any grade change was like giving Medusa the stink eye.  I sucked.

Rather than tackle the problem, I avoided it, planning most of my routes to be flat.  My performance on hills made me feel like a terrible runner, and I had enough confidence issues already!  So I would run largely flat routes and suffer occasional hills while berating myself for my lack of strength and ability.

As you might imagine, this strategy had its limitations, which became clear as I became a better runner (I will never be a superfast runner, but I’ve at least gotten better over the years and usually finish with times in the top 20% for women.)

For me, I’m not sure there’s anything worse than being in the middle of a decent race and then getting your ass kicked by other runners on hills.  Getting smoked during the last stretch by runners with a better finishing kick sucks too, but I think getting beat on hills is the ultimate downer for me personally, because when that happens I really feel outtrained.

Beat me, fine–we are all limited as to how well we can run, we run at varying paces during a race, and maybe you held back more earlier when I let it all hang out.  I can live with that, and I have to live with being beat and accept that I will never be an elite.  I can do that.  But don’t outtrain me.  That’s not cool.

So in recent years, I’ve stopped avoiding hills.  I make sure to plan my routes to include them.  I’m admittedly still not real big on hill repeats, which I know would make me even better, but I run a lot of hills in all my runs except for speedwork/intervals, and I’ve learned to look forward to the challenge and the reward.  I will never stink on hills again.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner.  Eat my dust, bitches.

Here are my non-expert tips on getting through hills, including common mistakes that I’ve been all too guilty of!  Enjoy!

Tip #1:  Have a mantra—a hill credo, if you will (and I think you will.)  Say it at the start of every hill.  Mine used to be, “There’s gold in them thar hills!”  Yes, I used to say that to myself before each one.  Don’t ask me why.  Recently, however, I’ve changed.  I told HH a month or so ago that some laundry wasn’t going to “fart itself clean!”, which led to hysterical laughter, and so now when I approach a hill I tell myself that that hill isn’t going to climb itself, which makes me laugh and relax.  I don’t know if it will stick, but it’s how I’m rollin’ for now.

Tip #2:  Relax!  Let the tension out!  This is fun, godd#$%it!  Seriously, don’t let the tension build up in your body.  If you need to, relax your arms and shake them out a little as you run.  Don’t let them get tight…pay attention to the tension in your arms and hands.  If you’re making fists and your muscles are tensed, well, you need a drink or a smoke or yoga or something.

Tip #3:  Upper body form–don’t slouch!  It’s good to lean a little forward, but do it from the waist and keep your head up and looking forward, shoulders up and strong.  You don’t want to compress your lung volume in any way.  I see a lot of runners running up hills with a curved back, shoulders forward and down.  I kindly tap them on the shoulder as I pass and tell them, “You’re doing it wrong!”  Just kidding.  I only say that in my head.

Tip #4:  Watch those arms!  Yes, it’s true that if you get your arms rolling, your feet will follow, but lots of people seem to think it’s Rock Em Sock Em Robots out there.  Get ’em pumping, drive them a little, but keep the motion controlled and forward moving–don’t cross the midline of the body.  That’s wasted energy, and aren’t you hurting enough already?

Tip #5:  Shorten your stride.  Do NOT think you’re attacking the hill by stretching your stride out.  Shorter strides and faster turnover is the key here.  Keep the stride short and really try to land on your forefoot.  You really don’t want to be heel striking here.  I am a heel striker, and I don’t pay too much attention to it during the rest of my runs, but I make sure not to do it on hills.  If I’m heel striking, I change my form.

Tip #6:  Some people say to break a hill into chunks and focus on getting through each little piece.  That doesn’t work for me.  I can try to visualize just the next 20 yards, but the fact is the remainder is still there, and I know it.  So if it works for you, fantastic!  I look at the whole hill, keeping my head up and my gaze forward, and I TAKE IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!

Tip #7:  Don’t stop, make it pop!  Whatever  you do, don’t stop at the top, beginners!  You’re not Rocky in training here.  Resist the urge to stop, drop your hands to your knees while gasping for air, and congratulate yourself.  Crest that hill, run down it, and teach your body how to recover and KEEP running.  Your heart rate will learn to come back down and settle into an easier pace over time.  Plus, running downhill is also hard on your muscles, just like running uphill (particularly knees and quads), so your body needs that practice too.  Double plus?  It’s an incredible feeling to chew up a big hill and then settle back into your regular pace, breathing, etc., like a pro.

Looking back over my tips, you might think I’m a good runner.  Full admission:  I am not.  But I love to run, and I love hills!  See you at the top!

What I’m Running To:  The Man by Aloe Blacc.

Questions?  Tips of your own?  Please leave a comment!

The Post Where I Discuss Ladies’ Underwear

I have friends coming in town this afternoon, so this post needs to be short and sweet (there are dust bunnies to chase and dogs to clean.)

Girls, you know it’s true (ooh, ooh, ooh)…bad underwear can ruin a run.  At least it can for me.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s pervert kidnappers Candy Crush Level 92  having underwear issues when I exercise.

I have a friend who wears her cheap Walmart looking bikini underwear to work out in…not smart, imho.  The lines (and the occasional leopard print!) show through her workout pants sometimes, and she once got a butt rash and wondered why.

I love you, dear, but you should know why!  You’re working up a sweat in inappropriate non-moisture-wicking undies!

I have many other friends who wear thongs.  Hell no, not for me.  I don’t want those things moving around in that delicate area like a bow on a violin string when I stretch or squat.  Plus, I think you can see the…well, absence of coverage in the middle of the back.

I prefer boy shorts usually…they’re a nice balance of coverage without diagonal panty lines cutting across the ass of my workout pants, and they don’t move too much.

Still, I’m always looking for better…and for me, the answer is Lululemon’s Light as Air Hipster.

Check this out…ooh la la!

Light As Air Hipster

What you can’t see in this pic is that this underwear is paper/silky-thin and moisture-wicking.  There are no seams…hooray for no visible lines!  It’s like wearing a whisper, and that whisper is telling you that it’s got your privates cradled in silky softness.

I swear they make me faster (not that that’s difficult.)  Not plucking undies out of my nether regions or trying to stretch bikini sides out to cover the entirety of my ass saves me valuable seconds per mile (not to mention what little dignity I have.)

Lululemon, you have a winner.  Between your Cool Racerback tank that covers my torso without riding up and your underwear, I have no excuse for not running my best!

Now, in fairness, I read the reviews of the underwear when I looked up the link, and I should point out that it gets a lot of horrible ratings.  Lots of women say it rolls over or falls apart after about a month.  I’ve had my two pairs that long and have been alternating them pretty much every day and haven’t had those problems, but at $18/pair, you might want to start with just one and see what you think.

Your silky-cradled ass can thank me later!

What do you like to wear while working out?

Couch to Marathon Revisited

Last week I wrote a nasty post about people who decide to run a marathon and start from a zero balance (if you go back and read it, please take the time to leave the great comments from other bloggers!)  I wrote the post in part because I was conflicted about my feelings.  I want to support any runner, and yet I found myself almost angry thinking about the foolishness of people who want to just suddenly start running and think that they can run a marathon right off the bat.

I was surprised by my own vehemence on the subject, that I would feel so angry about people chasing the same medal that I had worked so hard for and potentially walking away with it in 6-7 hours versus my 4:22.  I saw the ridiculousness of it.  There will always be someone faster than you who could scoff at your time, and Lord knows there’s a whole gaggle of runners who could laugh at mine, so who was I to judge someone else’s journey?

Further, I’d written months ago in a post on joggers versus runners that speed is not the issue, and that committed runners who run slow paces have my admiration.  It’s easy to do something when you’re exceptional at it, right?  But to be committed to something for the love of it, even when you’re technically not the best?  That takes true love (not to mention more time out of your day to make the same training run commitment as the faster runners, and that adds up when you get into the meat of the marathon training!)

So where were my feelings coming from?  I love new runners, and I admire those who make the commitment to run long distances.  One of the commenters helped me understand my feelings on the subject.  She said I sounded like a marathon purist.  And I think I am.

I’ve only run one…I’ve only ever wanted to run one.  I held off on running it until I had my good reasons and was ready to make the commitment to train hard.  It deserved nothing less than my absolute best.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, even though I’d been a runner for years.  I was afraid that I would get injured (which I did, btw!) and that I wouldn’t be able to give it my best.  I revered the distance (and the runners who tackle it) like it was holy ground, and I resented people who want to jump into the ring and immediately go after the lion.

Still, those feelings didn’t seem entirely like me either.  I hoped that other bloggers and running readers would chime in and help me understand my thoughts.

And you did!  Thank you for taking the time to comment.

So here are my (semi-revised and semi-just better expressed) thoughts now, in all their who gives a rip what she thinks glory.

Are you a person who is longing for a change, hoping to feel inspired, looking for a personal goal?  Hello, I love you and would like you to discover running!  It’s a life changer, a soul scrubber, a surefire way to squeeze more meaning into every day.  I write this blog in the hopes that some new person will stumble across some of my words in any random post and feel motivated to run.  Running has added untold meaning to my life in the past ten years.

Are you brand new to running?  No problem.  The internet is there for you to get you started!  Check out the Runner’s World website for tips and info on how to get started.  Google beginning running and you will find numerous articles.  Check out all of the amazing WordPress blogs written by everyday runners, and you will find countless sources of inspiration.

But start slow.  Please don’t set a marathon as your first goal, even if it’s a 28-week plan.  I want you to be able to run long-term, and I want you to learn how to incorporate running into your daily schedule, not just as temporary training.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself time to learn what it feels like to run and recover.  Give yourself room to adjust and cut back as necessary, since your body isn’t used to it yet.  Training programs, even the Disney 28-week plan, call for a certain number of miles on a particular day, and I don’t want you getting scared in Week 4 when you’re scheduled to run 6 miles and don’t feel like that number is possible.

Are you the type that needs a goal, though, to keep you going?  I understand!  I would say try a 5k first, but I know that when I started running, a 5k would have been the LAST race I wanted to run.  Run fast for a shorter number of miles?  No way…

So try a 10k (6.2 miles.)  See if you can find a 4-mile run…it’s a nice step up from a speedy 5k, but doesn’t add too much distance.  Or do what I did–I ran for years without racing, then ran a half marathon as my first race.

And if none of those work for you (because let’s face it, I’m not in your head and don’t know your needs and goals), and you set that marathon as your first target and get up off the couch or off the elliptical in Week 1 for training, then here’s what I want to say…

Good Luck!  I will cheer for you.  I may not agree, because I have your best interests at heart and am scared, but I will hope that the running gods spare you any injury and that most of all, you emerge from the process with your medal AND…

a love for running that doesn’t go away.

It’s more important than the medal.  It will stay with you and be a far better friend than that one piece of bling.

Happy running, and welcome to the club!


A Seven Nation Army Couldn’t Hold Me Back…and All About Heart Rate Training

I’m giving a big thank you today to those blog readers who took the time to comment on my previous post.  One of the great things about starting this blog last December has been the discovery of other running bloggers and the online community that I’ve found.  I love following other bloggers and reading their running stories, and the support that these runners offer each other is fabulous!  I appreciated the comments (and the respectful tone!) and want to address the issue further in a more detailed post next week…

But first…I’m off to Wichita.  Yes, the boys and I are piling in the car and heading to the middle of Kansas this afternoon (ooh la la!) to see my Swiss bestie Pam and her family once more before they fly back across the pond to Geneva.  We will celebrate Pam’s birthday today and her son’s birthday tomorrow.

Swiss expats come back to the U.S. for the summer (or any short visit) and drop boatloads of money on clothes, etc.–all the things that cost a fortune in Switzerland or just  aren’t available.  You stock up, rip the tags off and cram that stuff in your luggage for the trip back overseas.  Pam has approximately 200 pounds of clothing, shoes, and athletic apparel that she needs to fit into a few small suitcases, so I’m thinking that I should get her a necklace as her present.

As for running, I am three runs into my half marathon training.  I ran 3 easy miles on Monday and averaged a 9:47 pace.  On Tuesday, I ran my first speedwork session since ‘Nam…5 x 400m repeats.  My splits averaged from 1:50-1:56, which I was very happy with.  Yesterday I ran another easy 3 miles at an average 9:52 pace.

I got on a lark and decided to dig out my heart rate monitor for the runs this week.  Do any readers use HRT (Heart Rate Training?)  I tried it once when I trained for my first race (the 2007 Hospital Hill half marathon), but I basically ignored it for several reasons:

  • My heart rate always seemed to be higher than the ranges I’d calculated using the basic 220 minus age formula, yet I always felt like I was right where I should have been based on level of exertion.
  • I always experienced Cardiac Creep but didn’t know what it was at that point so didn’t know to ignore it.  Cardiac Creep is just the fact that your heart rate will gradually creep up during a long run as you get tired and if you get dehydrated.  I saw my heart rate go up, even though I was giving the same effort, and I didn’t know whether to slow down dramatically (which seemed silly based on my level of exertion) or to ignore it.
  • My heart rate would spike during hills, and once it spiked it tended to stay elevated.  It was like Cardiac Creep, but more than that (I’ll describe more below.)

Basically, I called it phooey and moved on.

After six more years of running, I now have a better understanding of HRT and my heart rate zone numbers, I dismiss Cardiac Creep as long as my perceived effort remains the same, and most importantly, I have a much more accurate and finely-tuned FEEL for what the numbers mean.  I am no expert (funny how often I offer opinions on this blog with that caveat!), but here are some thoughts…

The key is not to just go with the online formulas and their estimates based on your age (most articles state this upfront, but it’s really important.)  You have to know your personal resting heart rate (RHR) and maximum heart rate (MHR) for those zones to be anywhere close to accurate.

Your RHR is easy enough to calculate.  Put on the old monitor strap and measure first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.  Do this for several mornings and take the average.  If you don’t like to strap things on in bed (sorry, couldn’t resist–ha!), get that free heart rate app by Azumio (I have it and love it) and do the same thing with your phone (just be aware that keeping your phone near your bed can lead to trouble when your spouse wants to get romantic and you are stalling so you can fit in one more level of Candy Crush–hypothetically speaking, of course!)

My RHR is 40-41, which my doctor verified last fall when he did an EKG during my physical.  Many websites will assume that your RHR is around 60.  Now, I’m no mathematician, but those numbers are way different and would throw off any calculations in my view.  Calculate your own.

The MHR is an entirely different kind of flying altogether (any Airplane fans out there?).

This is where the feel part of it comes in.  I’ve exercised enough and at enough levels of intensity to have a good sense that my MHR is probably around 185-190.  I can get into the upper 170s and sustain it with some good sprinting, and we’re not talking the kind of sprinting that’s godawful painful and forces me to stop within seconds.  We’re talking sprinting where I could still give plenty more.

I can get it up there, people!  So I assume that my max is actually in the upper 180s somewhere, and I’m not really interested in dying on the sidewalk to test its exact limit.

Over time, I’ve experimented off and on with checking my heart rate for runs but not actually training with it.  I prefer to go by feel, which is an actual method…the Borg method.  This, of course, makes me want to include this…

Must stop laughing…making important points here…

Ok, back to feeling it…I know what easy runs feel like to me by now.  I can sing under my breath, take a deep cleansing breath when I need to (you know, those stretchy lung breaths) and generally keep it together.  Think of it like a victory lap run…you could wave to the throngs and talk to your friends.  Depending on the article/training program/expert, easy runs should be about 60-75% of your MHR.  For me, 155 is pretty much the exact point where I leave my happy place and start working too much, but I haven’t tested it lately.

Hal calls for 65-75% on my current plan.  Here is a copied page from one of my favorite links (here) for heart rate zones with my numbers plugged in…

Heart rate zones

My resting heart rate is:   My maximum heart rate is:

FAQ: Heart rate zones

Zone What it does % of Heart Rate
Heart rate
beats per minute
Long, slow runs, easy or recovery runs Training in this zone improves the ability of your heart to pump blood and improve the muscles’ ability to utilize oxygen.  The body becomes more efficient at feeding the working muscles, and learns to metabolise fat as a source of fuel. 60-70% 130 – 145
Aerobic zone or “target heart rate zone” Most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness. Increases your cardio-respitory capacity: that is, the your ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells.  Also effective for increasing overall muscle strength. 70-80% 145 – 160
Anaerobic zone The point at which the body cannot remove lactic acid as quickly as it is produced is called the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold. It generally occurs at about 80-88% of the Heart Rate Reserve. Training in this zone helps to increase the lactate threshold, which improves performance. Training in this zone is hard: your muscles are tired, your breathing is heavy. 80-90% 160 – 175
VO2 max
“Red line zone”
You should only train in this zone if you re very fit, and only for very short periods of time. Lactic acid develops quickly as you are operating in oxygen debt to the muscles   The value of training in this zone is you can increase your fast twitch muscle fibers which increase speed. 90-100% 175 – 190

Funny enough…the 75% mark would put me right around 155 for my top limit, which corresponds to how I feel.

I decided to check my numbers on my runs this week.  Lo and behold, the numbers held up, which makes me fee like I’m in the right place with my planned paces.  During my speed repeats, I never went over 168.  During my easy runs, I only spiked up over 155-156 on elevation changes, and then only briefly.  This brings me to another key point.

One of the most valuable parts of checking your heart rate (TO ME, the non-expert) is seeing not just how the numbers for the zones are, but how your heart rate changes as you become more fit.  Cardiac Creep is not as severe for me as it once was, and more importantly, my heart rate spikes less on hills and RECOVERS quickly, allowing me to get right back into my zone, physically and mentally.

Here is one of the most rewarding things about tracking your heart rate, even if you don’t train with it.  The time it takes for your heart rate to drop is a significant indicator of your fitness.  Recovery Heart Rate is a great thing to know!

Here is an excerpt from a great article (here) that describes it:

Recovery Heart Rate is the change in your heart rate after you stop working out. You compare your workout heart rate with your heart rate after you have recovered for 1 – 2 minutes. If you do not have much change in your heart rates, you are not very fit (your heart still has to beat rapidly, even though you have stopped working out. ) To calculate your Recovery HR, take your heart rate 1 or 2 minutes after completing a workout. When working out in an aerobic zone, a common recovery heart rate is 20-30 beats per minute. A person who is fit will have a higher Recovery Heart Rate than an unfit person.

For me, it doesn’t matter how hard I run…unless I’ve been out-and-out sprinting, my heart rate goes right back down into the 80s within two minutes, and I am back to normal lickety split.  Talk about feeling good about your running and what you’re doing for your health…it’s an amazing accomplishment to watch that number drop right back down.

So try it out!  Check it again in a few months and track your improvement.  Get up and get back down with your bad self!  When you see that number drop right back down into a happy place, pat yourself on the back.  Tell yourself, “This dance ain’t for everybody–just the sexy people!”  (Morris Day?  The Time?  Anyone?)

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Does anyone track their heart rate or train with it?  Do you think it’s all a bunch of junk?  Do you know your RHR?  More importantly, do you like the Time?

Some further links (there are tons more if you search, but these are my faves):

http://wserver.flc.losrios.edu/~willson/fitns304/handouts/heartRates.html (the link is referenced above, but I include it again because I like it and this is my blog.)

http://www.runningforfitness.org/calc/heart-rate-calculators/hrzone (again, this is the other link from above, but I include it again)




Couch to Marathon = One Extremely Hacked Off and Opinionated Blogger

I’m going to attempt to be delicate in this post, which is not one of my talents.  I’m getting ready to criticize someone about her running, which feels so wrong.  I don’t like attacking anyone personally, and I hope this lovely woman never stumbles across my blog (please, dear sweet lady, don’t find my blog because I do love you!), but I do hope to make a few points that other beginning runners might take not of based on the example.  I’m also wondering if I’m totally offbase in my thinking, and I’m hoping some readers will comment and give their thoughts.

In short, I’m going to be mean.

So let me get comfortable on my high horse, and here goes…

I follow a foodie blog.  Actually, I follow several, which I find pretty amusing since I am often found oogling beautiful recipe pictures while feeding my family the nutritional equivalent of a Hot Pocket.  I love to bookmark recipes that I (usually) never make, and I love these bloggers’ writing style (ever read Smitten Kitchen?  She is to die for, and don’t get me started on her recipes and photography!)

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger started writing about her marathon training.  Out of the blue.  Suddenly she’s on Week 1 of a program.

Say wuh?

I read the first post and felt confused.  She listed her music and her gear (she’s got a Garmin–I’m jealous!), but not one word on WHY she was doing this (which is not a big deal to most people but is the biggest beginning question to me.)  Her reasons may be private and not ones that she wants to share, but still…where is this coming from?

I didn’t recall ever reading about her running, but I wasn’t sure how long I’ve been following her.  I was going to search her blog for previous posts, but then I saw her mention in a reply to a comment that she did a Couch to 5k program last fall and then got sidelined by tendonitis in her foot for six months.  She’s recently started running again using the same program and is running 3x/week.

Oh no.  Oh please no.

Her Week 2 post described how she now considers herself a real runner because Week 2 of training is in the books, she ran a longer distance than she’s ever run in her life (5.65 miles) and she liked it.  Though her program only called for a long run of 4 miles, she ran 5.65 instead (um, why?), jogging up to five minutes at a time and taking walk breaks.

My brain was screaming.  It took every part of restraint I have not to leave a comment begging her to stop.  I looked through the comments to see if any other readers were runners who might offer a gentle word of caution, but all I saw were comments like “you go, girl” and “oh, you’re such an inspiration”.

Oh my goodness.  I’m a train wreck now.

Week 3 is now behind her, and things didn’t go so well.  She is now over a 15:00/mile pace for her long run (just over 6 miles), had to limp home in excruciating pain because of her foot, but is still counting the weeks until her marathon (25 to go!)

I have to wonder at this point…what program is this person following?  What running expert devises a program for non-runners to get to a marathon in 28 weeks?  Who encourages that kind of nonsense?

Jeff Galloway, of course.

Most runners know of Jeff Galloway…at least the name, anyway.  I knew he was the advocate of the run/walk approach, which encourages running for a certain number of minutes (or seconds, I guess) and then walking briskly for a shorter duration.

After looking into it, he’s got a whole thing going with Disney.  Disney offers a number of races and events on their runDisney website (here.)  They are very inclusive, offer many events and encourage runners of all levels.  Jeff Galloway is their consultant, and he offers a number of training programs for runners of different abilities.  He emphasizes getting to the finish line “without injury or pain.”

Sounds good so far.  Let’s get people fit and off the couch.  Let’s offer some 5ks, 10ks, and maybe a lovely half-marathon or two.  Great for beginners!  I’m all in!

But here’s where I get pissed.  They offer a training program for the MARATHON for people who aren’t runners.  I almost barfed as I read it…

The runDisney program for beginners covers 28 weeks (plus the week after the race) and includes 3 runs per week–two 30-minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday and one long run on the weekends.  That run alternates every other weekend between a shorter distance and a longer one.  For example, for the first sixteen weeks of training, the long run alternates between 3(!) miles and a longer distance (17 miles in Week 16!)  For the first several weeks, the runner can run for 50 seconds and then walk for 10.

Further, from Week 17 to race day, the program calls for 3 runs of 20 miles or more, including a 26-miler in Week 25.  He urges runners to run 2 minutes per mile slower than their goal pace during these long runs and not to worry if their long run pace is slower than 16:00 per mile.  Are you serious?

Here comes the nasty…this is not running a marathon, people.  It’s just not.

I want to be a cheerleader.  I do.  I talk about how I want this blog to encourage people to run and how runners want others to join the club and find the joy and peace that running brings.  Running changes people’s lives, their health, their confidence.  It’s a big tent…come on in!

But I just can’t see this.  Not for the marathon distance.

Why the need to go from zero to marathon?  I try to recognize that everyone has different personalities, and I want to be respectful of that, but this is too much!  I ran for years before even considering running a race (too much the other way, I know), and then I ran several half-marathons, a 10k, a 5k, THEN thought about tackling 26.2.  And even then, I didn’t have to do it.  In fact, though a runner for many years, I always said I’d never run one…until I had a specific set of reasons for doing so.

I myself would see no joy in completing a marathon at such a pace.  That medal would mean nothing to me.  And though I realize that such a medal could mean EVERYTHING to someone else, someone who has come from nothing, who has maybe begun a life-changing process, it still makes me mad.

And that’s where I feel so guilty.

The marathon takes a tremendous toll on your body.  It’s a dance of muscles and joints and tendons, electrolytes and glycogen, mental endurance and months of training.  It requires discipline in a way that’s so different from any shorter distance.  It’s a gorgeous, ugly, taxing feat.  And though I’m certainly no elite, I felt confident that I was equipped to take it on.

And here’s the meanest thing I’ve ever written, and it shocks me a little…if someone goes from the couch to a marathon in less than eight months, and walks away with the same medal that I would, it dilutes it.  It disrespects it.  And that’s not an inclusive attitude, and so I feel terrible, because I know that those people would be so proud of themselves and would have worked so hard, just like I did.  Why can’t I just be happy for them?  How would I feel if I read an elite runner’s blog and they said the same thing about people who run the race at my speed?  What is wrong with me?  I might not be proud if I’d run a marathon at that distance, but why can’t they be?

I’m shocked that I feel that way.

Further, it makes me mad because I worry about people.  The capacity for injury is huge, and the desire to not quit weighs heavy when you’ve been training for months and are close to race day (trust me!)  You need to tackle marathon training knowing that you have to be able to LET IT GO if you get hurt, and where does that leave a beginning runner?  On the couch and inactive again!

I know I’m not an expert, and Jeff Galloway is, but only running 3x/week?  And then 3 20-mile + runs?  Huh?  I know these people are jogging super slow, but still—how do they not get hurt?  And when they’ve just gotten going and are feeling so good about themselves, it would be sad to get hurt.  I don’t want someone who is just beginning to run get derailed by injury because they’ve taken on too much, because then they need time to recover and then they will be starting from scratch again.  If they’d just built up slowly and maybe set a 10k as their first race, they would have a far greater chance of becoming a true runner, nabbing that first special medal and avoiding chronic injury.

If you’ve never run a 10k or half-marathon, you will not have a good sense yet of listening to your body, of understanding aches and pains and what signals your body is sending you—these are things that come from lots of running experience, and they are so helpful during training.

There are differences between types of soreness/pain and their location.  It matters when you feel pain during a training run and when and how it goes away.  Understanding how you should feel on recovery days and how you shouldn’t…knowing your level of energy, your sleep, etc. during training…these are things you need to be very familiar with before you tackle a 7-month long training commitment.  

I can’t imagine going through the training I went through last winter without the experience and knowledge my previous half-marathons gave me.  I also can’t imagine setting such a huge goal to start.  When I started running, my initial goal was just to better myself.  I built up to running 3-4 times a week and got comfortable with varying mileage and speed and getting to know how running affected my body.  That experience was invaluable.

If you’re a beginning runner and you’re reading this, please don’t hate me.  Please start slow…there is so much joy in the 5k to half-marathon distance, and those medals will make you so proud AND more likely to be a lifetime runner!  There is simply NO NEED to start with the marathon.  Please feel free to leave a comment or add your perspective!

If you’re the lady who I’ve singled out and you ever stumble across this post, please know that in spite of my doubt and my nastiness, I still wish the best for you! 

And if you’re a runner like me, please add any thoughts of your own.  Correct me, yell at me, agree with me…I just really wonder what other people think!