Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going for Speed: Weekly Round-Up (8)

Time flying when you’re having fun has come up a lot on this blog. I’m still not entirely sure when it became the end of February, but here we are.

I'll be traveling for work this week, but I should be able to complete my workouts as planned in the hotel's fitness center.

Week 9:

Monday: X-Training and Strength
Tuesday: Tempo Run – 45 minutes
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles and Strength
Friday: Off
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: 3 miles and Strength

Saturday will be the the longest run of this training cycle before I begin my taper. Depending on how I feel after, there's a chance that I'll run the ¡VAMOS! 5K. I haven't registered yet, but my participation looks very likely.

Since it is the end of the month and training for the half marathon is winding down, I've been thinking about setting a few goals for the month of March. They're fairly simple and a way to make sure that I do more of the things that I like and accomplish a few things that I've been putting off for a while. In addition to owning all of my workouts planned for March and meeting my time goal for the race (which I'm rethinking -- more on this later), my non-running goals for the month are:

  • Meditate three times per week: I don't consider myself a new-agey type.  However, I committed to meditating once per week in February found that those 30 minutes did wonders for my mental health. I would love to get in that time daily, but three days per week is a great start for now.
  • Read four books: Simple enough -- and, I need to balance the time spent reading blogs and news sources online with reading print material.
  • Map academic future: Since last summer's GRE push, I've been putting this off and the sense of urgency might be starting to grow a little.  I love my job and can't imagine leaving, but graduate work has always been on the radar so I should get on working out the details.
  • Try something new: I'm leaving this one open. 
  • Swim!: Or, learn to do more than tread water.
  • Find an opportunity to become more involved in the community.  
I'm looking forward to the extra challenge. Now, off to enjoy this weekend's glorious weather!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: A Full Windsor

Of all of the days of the week, I find Tuesday to be the least exciting.

Tuesday is to Monday and Wednesday – when I meet a group of absolutely fantastic people for pub quiz and Hump Day, respectively -- as Jan Brady is to Marsha and Cindy.

Tuesday is no Thursday, which is usually the night when a group of lovely ladies hosts a rotating dinner party. (In fact, it was after one such dinner party that I decided that running a marathon would be an excellent idea.)

In a battle for most awesome day of the week, Tuesday is no match against TGI Carb Night -- mostly because I love carbs almost as much as I love puppies, Christmas, and goat cheese.

Plus, Saturdays and Sundays are just the bees knees.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything personal against Tuesday. Back at Yale, when friends would gather at Hot T’s – which, apparently, closed its doors -- for the $5 beer and burger special, I loved Tuesdays. (And, studying after happy hour was much more fun.)

But, now, Tuesdays are kind of just…


I think Tuesday needs something special. So, I'm going to introduce a new series of posts. Each Tuesday, I'll share something inspiring. It could be anything -- a quote, a story, an image -- as long as it sparks a feeling try something new, finally start that project you've been putting off, take on a challenge, or simply try to be a better person. The post will likely be related to running, but it won't always be. The point is to give myself -- and maybe even some of you -- that little push needed to take on life's challenges.

So, here we go:

“We can do many of the things we think we aren't cut out for. We can teach a class, run a long run, complete a hard workout, seize an opportunity or moment, accept a challenge, rise above the fray, raise our kids, be a good husband or good wife. And even if we don't do them perfectly, our willingness to try and learn and reach trumps perfection every time."

--- from “Double Windsor” on Mile Markers by Kristin Armstrong

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going for Speed: Weekly Round-Up (7)

This weekend, so far, has turned out to be exactly the kind of weekend that I’ve needed: two excellent runs, soccer on the Mall, fro-yo on the steps of the portrait gallery, time to catch up on my reading (I’m currently working my way through The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and The Bee Eater), movie-watching, shopping success, and lots of sleep.

Glorious, restorative sleep.

I had a long talk with my dad last weekend about my training – how great it feels to run and to see my hard work pay off, but also how tired I’ve felt recently. I do make an effort to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, but sometimes that isn’t enough to keep me going at the office, during workouts, and during any attempts to be a social butterfly. 

I worried that I might be over training, but I feel very comfortable with my workouts.  After mulling over what could be going on, I decided that my body was just tired and needed a solid night of sleep.  So, last Sunday, I gave it a try. I felt incredibly lame, but I forced myself to go to bed at 10:30.  

The result: leaping (quite literally) out of bed at 6:20 the next morning for a workout.

I would love to say that I’m going to get eight hours of sleep every night, but I know that life happens and sometimes you have to settle for fewer hours of sleep than you’d like.  I will, though, promise to make an effort to take better care of myself during training and rest when I need to – even if it means sacrificing a workout every now and then.

Week 8’s training schedule:

Monday: Cycling, strength training, and extra stretching
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 8 x 400 m at 5K Pace (8:57 per mile)
Thursday: 30-minute easy run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 9 miles
Sunday: 3 miles at race pace

With about a month to go before the half-marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler a weeks after, I’m starting to narrow my options for fall marathons.  I’m down to Hartford, Philadelphia, Newport (RI), or the Marine Corps Marathon in DC. Something inside me is hinting at picking two of the above – one half-marathon and one full.

Could it be time to check into Runner's Anonymous?

.....Absolutely not! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinner Tonight -- Butternut Squash Burgers

My original plan for tonight’s dinner was derailed a bit when I realized that I neglected to defrost the chicken before I left for the office this morning. This, of course, meant that I spent the second half of my day thinking about what I could do for dinner that didn’t involve my still-frozen chicken and wouldn't take too much time to prepare after my workout.

Thankfully, I had a butternut squash, chickpeas, and a great recipe from Liz Runs DC for burgers. (I recently added her blog – and a few others – to my list of subscriptions on Google Reader. I love reading other runners’ stories, and the blogs are great sources for advice, motivation, and culinary delights.)

After my tempo run, I put on some sweet tunes and started dinner. You can check out the recipe on Liz's blog.  But, because I like posting pictures of food, here are a few photos of my cooking adventure. You may start

The chickpeas and butternut squash just came out of the oven.  This reminds me so much of autumn...

Grilling the burgers. 

Om nom nom nom nom....

The recipe yields seven burgers, so I stashed a few in the freezer for later.  My taste buds are still dancing with delight.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love the Run You're With 5K - Round-Up/Weekly Round-Up (6)

Alright. So:

I made a slight adjustment to this week's training plan once the little voice inside of me – let’s call her Reason -- figured out that it would be a terrible idea to run 8 miles on the day before a race that I planned to treat as an opportunity to set a new PR.  Instead, I took the elliptical for what turned out to be a very productive workout.

I woke up at about 7:00 this morning to get ready, fuel, and make my way over to Pentagon City for Pacers' Love the Run You’re With 5K.  Previous experiences with public transportation on race day have taught me well, but I definitely overestimated how long it would take me to get Pentagon Row on a Sunday morning.  Other than it being a little colder than I had hoped, it wasn’t a terrible thing to have more than enough time to adequately warm-up, stretch, and mentally prepare for the race – which mostly involved rocking out to BeyoncĂ©’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” in honor of competing in the “Stupid Cupid” (read: single) category.

I knew going into the race that there would be a bit of a climb about a tenth of a mile after the starting line. The course flattened out fairly quickly, and I was in enough of a groove to keep my pace steady for most of the race.  I ran into a little bit of trouble during the last mile when I started to feel my left calf cramping. (You would think that all of the stretching would have prevented that, right?)  I took a 30-second walk before I decided that it was time to push through the pain and finish strong.

Place: 585/1694
Division: 140/465 (females in the SC category)
Gun Time: 28.18.3
Net Time: 27.48.2 (Previous PR: 31.14)
Pace: 8:57

Mission accomplished and onto Week 7:

Monday: Strength and X-Training
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: Tempo Run 40 minutes
Thursday: 3 miles/strength
Friday: Off
Saturday: 10 miles
Sunday: 4 miles (at race pace)

Happy Valentine’s Day Singles Awareness Day Anna Howard Shaw Day, folks!  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Going for Speed: Weekly Round-Up (5)

I'm up to Week 6, the end of which will mark the half-way point of this training cycle. I'm a little worried that I'm not training enough to be able to run my upcoming half in under two hours. Sure, all of the speed work feels great and I can certainly see the improvement but I haven't run more than three consecutive miles at my intended race pace. I'm sure it'll be okay, but maybe it's time to kick things up a notch now that I feel more comfortable at faster speeds.

Week 6 Schedule:

Monday: Off -- my future self will thank me
Tuesday: 7 x 400m at 5K pace
Wednesday: 4 miles and strength training
Thursday: Cycling and strength training
Friday: Off
Saturday: 8 miles
Sunday: Love the Run You’re With – 5K Race. Goal: Crush race time from Santa Shuffle 5K (See Round-Up) of 31:14.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weird Science

I've always been amazed by the human body and its responses to - well - pretty much everything. Runner's World ran a great piece a few months ago (that I finally got around to reading today) about the effects of running and the body's responses. My initial thought while reading most of the article: "Dude, this is so cool!" (My internal monologue is often less eloquent after hours of data analysis.)

Some of my favorites:

1 How can someone just as short/tall/skinny/fat as me run so much faster?
Plenty of reasons why your doppelganger leaves you in the dust. Speedwork may be his religion, and you haven't converted yet. This may be her 50th 10-K, when you're just stepping up to the distance. He may have a new girlfriend standing on the sidelines; she may have a postpregnancy goal she's gunning for. "Just because two people are long and lean or have a powerful build doesn't mean they match up in terms of VO2 max, mental toughness, or injury history," says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., assistant professor of athletic coaching education at West Virginia University. Many performance components, such as endurance, pace, turnover, and mental toughness, can be improved with planned, systematic training, except for one very significant one: genetics. "Muscle-fiber type and VO2 max are genetic," says Jay Dicharry, M.P.T., C.S.C.S., director of SPEED Clinic at the University of Virginia Center for Endurance Sport. "That's how some people who don't even train can blow by you on race day." You can't change your genetic destiny, but you can greatly influence your performance by training smart, adding speedwork, tempo runs, running-specific drills, and strength training to your routine. Plus, remember there's a reason it's called a PR: It's a personal record. Beat it—not yourself—up.

18 Why do I feel like a genius after a run?
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a great 10-K is that, postrun, you're sure you could score 1,600 on the SATs (2,400 if you're under 25) —or at least improve. "Running increases levels of positive neurotransmitters, like endorphins; norepinephrine, which is responsible for alertness; and serotonin, which helps regulate mood," says Fitzgerald. "Plus, running puts the brain in an 'alpha-wave' state, which is associated with feelings of calmness and well-being." A handful of studies have documented that moving your feet correlates with improving your brain; two conducted at the University of Illinois found that 30 minutes of exercise resulted in up to a 10 percent improvement in cognition, or being more effective in processing a problem or situation. Maybe that stellar score isn't out of reach.

20 At the end of a long run or race, why do I question the meaning of life?
I had a client who told me at the end of a marathon, she could see the Virgin Mary," says Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D. "She felt like she was dying." One of the prominent symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is angry, depressing thoughts. When your body isn't receiving the glucose it needs to perform, your brain, the air-traffic controller of your body, springs into action, sending messages—Why are you out here anyway, stupid? —for it to shut down and self-preserve. The day before a long run, eat three nutritionally sound meals and make sure your body's fuel tank is topped off before you head out. During the run, take in about 30 grams of carbs every 30 to 40 minutes. Before you head out, line up your answers to the inevitable questions (or at least draw up your will).