Sunday, 30 March 2014

Weekly round up

As I mentioned in a previous post I haven't done a whole load of running this week. I have a long year of races ahead of me so I'd rather rest up now and not "race" the next couple of races than blow my chances at running any of them!
I've been stretching constantly and then every time I'd run the same old pain would show up...then light bulb I not post ages ago that my shoes were nearing their expiration date? Did I replace them since then..NO! Once again I've run and raced on dead shoes due to my own forgetfulness. It's a pity the shoe can't change color or something when they need to be replaced. I have a new pair on the way so we'll see how they help.
I ran today on a pair of Saucony Hattori's, a zero drop shoe, that I haven't fully broken in yet and you know what, no hip/knee pain, just some heel blisters :) granted I only ran 3 miles but that's better than nothing.
As you might notice in the above picture our pretty blossoms have fled the trees and the grass is beginning to grow. I've been spending a good bit of time, mostly weeding, getting the garden ready for spring, which seems to have now sprung. Back to my sweaty, back breaking cross training aka lawn mowing a half an acre with a manual mower. But you can't complain about the sunshine and blue skies.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 40 minutes swimming, strength progression series
Wednesday: 4 miles, strength progression series
Thursday: 3 miles, strength progression series
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 3 miles, strength progression series

A measly 10 miles this week :(

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Not a lot of running....but lots of food!

Tight hips prevail this week and no matter what I do no amount of stretching seems to be working. 

My current shoes are worn thin which is probably not helping...never fear a pair of Brooks Purecadence 2s are winging their way to me. I chose them because they have the same heel to toe drop and cushion as my Saucony Progrid Mirages. I don't like the newest version of the Sauconys so a change was required. As a bonus they are vegan more easy small change. I'll let ya know what I think when I get a chance to try them out.

It's been a quiet week just me and the pup, but my housemate (@ arrived back from Ireland last night loaded with an assortment of goodies. She went to the cheapest shop ever, by request, and got me pjs and undies (since Boomer has depleted mine by chewing thru many pairs). Besides that piece of randomness she loaded her suitcase with sweets, cookies and even bread from home. Irish bread tastes very different than American bread, which I don't offense meant I guess what you grow up with always tastes better. Even tho I'd had dinner before picking her up at the airport, a major binge fest took place afterwards.

I'm really happy she got to go home, especially since I'll be seeing my parents here in May and her family can't travel, but I've been very homesick these last few months. I might have welled up eating the bread she brought back, who says I don't have a very emotional connection to food? No wonder I have to watch myself to maintain my weight!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Tahini, Vegetable & Tofu Stir-fry

I haven't posted a recipe in a long while but I made this for dinner tonight and thought it was really tasty, so why not share?

I make stir-fries on and off, we have a bit of a love-hate relationship...right now it's love!

Extra firm Tofu
Garlic Granules
Chili flakes
Soy sauce
Sesame seed oil
Whatever veggies you like in a stir fry

Get your rice cooking.

Add a tsp of sesame seed oil to a wok/pan and allow to heat.

Pat dry the tofu and add to the oil, I added around an 1/5th of a block cut into cubes.

At this stage if you have any veggies like carrots that take a little longer to cook add them with the tofu.
Let cook for a few minutes, mixing occasionally, until the tofu is slightly colored and add the rest of the veggies. 

Also add a liberal sprinkling of garlic granules (approx 1/2 tbsp), chili flakes (depending on how hot you like your food) and soy sauce (approx 2 tbsp).

Let cook a little longer and when you think everything is just about done add 2-3 tbsps of tahini paste and stir it in and allow 1 minute at a low heat for it to warm up.

Serve over rice or quinoa and enjoy.

As a side note, I love garlic and garlic granules have been something I've never tried using in my cooking until recently. I know fresh garlic is probably healthier and I will use both in tomato based sauces but the flavor provided by the granules is much nicer especially for stir-fries.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Why I will never be an Ironman!

Besides the fact that I am not a man nor am I made of iron, I am not cut out for the whole swimming thing.

Don't get me wrong I can swim and if I put some effort in I'm good at. Hell I learned to swim in a lake, from the age of 3, so the open water thing doesn't frighten me. I've even done a sprint triathlon long ago, so it's not the combination of three sports (even tho I hate cycling). 

It's that feeling of lowering your still asleep body into cold water. I do all my training in the evening, unless a morning session is unavoidable. Yes I feel great, energized and productive after I've done a morning workout but I just can't do it on a regular basis. There is no avoiding morning sessions when you are training a gazillion hours a week, as iron people do!

I'm also a very unmotivated swimmer....even tho I can swim fast, I don't. I'd need a coach screaming at me everyday. I end up beyond bored after ten minutes. For example, the forty minutes in the pool this morning might as well have been 4 hours but the 15 minutes in the suana flew by.

So all you triatheletes, be it sprint, full, half ironman, ironman or any such variation you have my undying respect, I salute you!!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Weekly roundup

This week has been my time to recover after two back to back half marathon weekends. I didn't expect to run too much but my little buddy was enjoying it so much who was I to refuse him!
Lots of this.
Followed by...zzzzzzz!

Monday: rest
Wednesday:3 miles (9.51, 10.02, 9.43),strength progression series
Thursday: 4 miles (9.37, 10.15, 9.37, 9.37),strength progression series
Friday: strength progression series
Saturday: 4 miles (10.02, 9.37, 9.26, 8.26),strength progression series
Sunday:5 miles (9.08, 8.43, 9+knee pain,9.15, 10.02),strength progression series

16 miles total.
All was going great until today. I'd had no IT band related pain all week but it kicked in today at mile 3. I had intended to run 9 miles today for a nice round weekly total of 20 but that didn't happen. I did enough to get myself back to the car and go home. Live to fight another day!
Maybe I eased off stretch and rolling a bit too much towards the end of the week....well now it's back at it! In positive news I only had pain in one knee rather than both. Next week let's go for no knee pain!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

My 8 Week Challenge

I'm challenging myself to do all 8 weeks of this strength progression series for runners by Coach Jay Johnson

I've become dedicated to and more knowledgable about stretching, foam rolling and massage to help heal or prevent injuries. I've seen benefits. I'm less likely to get injured and I recover faster from any niggles. For example stretching and foam rolling let me run a 3 mile recovery run today without any ITB pain. This is after my race on Sunday when they hurt quite a bit.

However, besides one bout of shin splints years ago, any injuries I get are reoccurring. Usually appearing when I'm fatigued and pushing hard e.g. Racing. My IT bands and gluteus medius are mainly the problem. The fact that this happens when I'm fatigued suggests I need to strengthen my hip (mainly glutes) and core muscles to improve my form when tired. 

So I'm going to dedicate at least the next 8 weeks to following these exercises. I don't need a gym to do them and they target the muscles I want to work on. The first weeks excercises don't take a long time to do and are for the most part easy. I thought too easy but I've just completed my first round and you might not be in agony or sweating but you do feel it. Even if they don't prevent my particular set of injuries I feel like they'll make me a stronger runner.

If anyone else decides to do this too please let me know if you feel like you are improving as a result and I'll update you on my progress.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Tobacco Road Half Marathon, NC

Last Sunday (March 16th) I ran the Tobacco Road Half Marathon near Cary NC, my second half marathon in two weeks. This race also has a full marathon course but I wasn't feeling brave enough to try it. I'm still pretty tired so forgive me if I ramble a little!

My entry fee was $85 (when I entered), a little pricey for a half in my opinion but totally worth it, the medal alone made up my mind on that.

I drove 3 and a half hours to reach the race expo on Saturday, a long but not bad drive. I was a bit drowsy by the time I got there especially as I drove to the soft snores of two dogs in the backseat. The expo was probably the biggest one that I've seen so far of any race that I've run here. I had no plans to buy anything so honestly I only had a quick walk around to see what there was and grabbed my packet.

Lots of the usual merchandise and since it was St. Patricks Day weekend a large portion of it was green (go on Ireland!). A lot of green shirts..I seen one with O' Runner girl...honestly I think the world must think we talk like leprechauns lol, but I'm not going to diss anyone who wanted to celebrate our national holiday. 
All of the race sponsors were there too, offering tasters of food and drinks. The packet pickup was well organised. Considering there were over 4,000 runners thats saying something. I picked up my bib from a numbered section, went to a machine to check the timing chip worked ok and then onto the next room to pick up my t-shirt. My god is it pink! The pinkest thing I own...not hard considering the only pink item, of non-underwear, clothing that I own is my ski jacket. As a nice bonus everyone got a pair of compression sleeves with their t-shirt. I was delighted with this because here was something useful, that I've wanted to try for ages.

The Race:
The race began and ended at the USA baseball training grounds. There was limited parking, so at registration you had to opt in to get a parking pass. I obviously glossed over that part and didn't get one, so I parked at the offsite parking. As nice as it would have been to park right at the start/finish, other than getting lost on the way there (my bad) the offsite parking was no hassle. There was plentiful parking, it literally took me 2 seconds to get a spot, and a short walk to get to a bus. The bus took off once it was full and it took about 10-15 minutes to take us to the race start.

The only downside of this being such a big race was that this was all done at an ungodly hour. I parked my car at 5am!!!!! The race start wasn't until 7am. When we got to the start there was gatorade, fruit, bread etc set out. I'd already eaten but if I hadn't I sure would have been glad of this. As always I like to make a ton of trips to the port-a-potties before the race, just in case, and there were lots of them but the lines were longer than last weekends race, no surprise considering the number of runners.
Now for what won me over to really liking this race. It was really cold Sunday morning and there was a threat of rain. What did the race organisers do? Erect a giant giant tent. Yes that was awesome, you only had to step in the door to feel the body heat radiating off the crowd, keeping everyone warm. Other than the occasional overexcited runner emitting a gas cloud it was amazing.
One last trip to the port-a-potty and I lined up for the 7am start. One national anthem later and we were off. Now for what I can see as the only downside to this corrals or wave starts. I'm so glad I was running this race for the experience rather than a PR....a good call.
The first few miles of the race were really really crowded, had I been trying for a quick time I would have been severely pissed off (either from dodging runners or from having had to line up for ages before the start to ensure a spot near the front). It eased off a bit but never really spread out enough to run freely until the last few miles. 

After 2.5 miles on the road (with a few small hills...well slopes at least) the half and full marathon courses split. The half went left, the full right. Both turned onto the America Tobacco Trail. This is a rails-to-trails project, were the old railroad route of the American Tobacco Company was turned into 20+ miles of trails. The trail is mostly flat with crushed stone coverage. Effort wise running on this surface didn't take anymore energy than running on asphalt even if it was a bit rougher. 
There was a bit of a grade on it just like some roads and I found this hard to deal with at times as it was hard on my ankle and IT band on my left it was an out and back route the same side took the punishment the whole time. The course itself was very pretty, lined with tall trees. At points there were a good few spectators with signs, bells etc and lots of volunteers, thank you all, you are awesome! The marathoners eventually finished their out and back section and made their way onto the half course. I cheered for as many of them as I could, it was amazing that the front runners were well over half way through the marathon and I wasn't nearly finished the half. The aid stations were really good (every 1-2 miles) , a lot of volunteers, so no waiting for drinks. They were stocked with all sorts; gatorade, water, GUs, GU chomps and that was just what I gathered from a quick glance.

 We turned at the halfway point, ran over a timing mat and were off to the finish. I ran really slowly for the first few miles, had a great middle section, ran with Elvis for a while (he was a pacer) and took it easy for the last 3 miles. Once I'd warmed up I was able to run around the same pace as last week and hold it for ages. Unfortunately, after a while my IT bands decided that enough was enough; not worried about time, I again implemented a walk-run strategy for the last few miles. I didn't walk a whole lot just enough to give my muscle a short break, get my form a bit better as a result and hopefully limit any aggravation to my knees. As I approached the finish I had a good bit of energy left and tried to kick it into high gear. Fail. When I tried to run faster my left knee complained so much I ended up hopping along, so I took the more sensible option of a steady pace. I crossed the line to get my favourite medal so far. Again there were loads of volunteers so straight away I had my medal and lots of water. 

A short walk and I was in the thick of the post-race celebrations. Music and lots of food. The food from earlier was now joined by beer, soup and pizza. I honestly couldn't stomach any of it so I sucked on some oranges and drank water and chocolate milk. Knowing that Martina and the dogs were waiting patiently (or in Boomers case not so patiently) for me to get back to the hotel, I hopped on a bus and made my way back to grab a shower. Again all a very efficient process.....I left the area two seconds after boarding a bus. I didn't get lost once I made it to the car...a bonus. I made it back.
 I'm totally going TMI on this but my first pee after the race freaked me had some blood in there, but apparently this happens due to exercise. Next race I have to remember not to empty my bladder so throughly that walls of it rub and bleed (and to drink more during the race), poor bladder :(  That happened once. I made sure to flush my system with lots and lots of water...if it had continued I would have been to a doctor very quickly. The more I run the more I learn about the human body, mostly a lot of things I never ever wanted to know...but its good to learn! 

My recovery from this is already a bit different, overall I'm not nearly as tired as I was after last week and I'm not as sore. However, I think my IT band (mostly the irritation to my knees) might need a bit of a break. We'll see how it goes this week but I'll think it'll be at most two 2-3 milers with maybe a 4 mile run thrown in at the weekend.

Overall this was a great race, I really enjoyed just taking it all in. Its really nice to run bigger races once in a while. I'd recommend it especially if they introduced wave starts.

Tobacco Road Half Marathon 2:07

Non-race wise, the longer drive really sucked up a lot of the weekend and having 2 dogs along limited the options (the usual Boomer, and a friends dog we were minding) for food etc. We stayed in a La Quinta Suites...super cheap and big rooms. I wan't sure what to expect for the price but the room was spotlessly I'm impressed. On the way home we stopped in Raleigh at a Whole Foods and had a big lunch before tackling the long drive home in the rain.  My next race isn't for a while and its here in Columba, SC so no travel involved! A lot of my races this year have been planned around areas I want to visit, but right now while I'm building up my fitness for halfs, racing and traveling is a bit exhausting so it'll be nice to have a race on home turf!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Between two race weekends

Running two half marathons on back to back weekends is probably a bit of a stretch of my athletic abilities right now. However, nothing ventured nothing gained!

After the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon last Sunday I have been sore and really tired for most of the week. The thought of running another half this weekend has drove me into uber recovery mode.

Aided by instruments of torture (a foam roller, ball and ice bath) I've been trying to recover and release any knots lingering in my muscles. I also had a massage on Tuesday which has helped more than anything. Note I've been avoiding any super tender areas as intense massage could potentially irritate any injuries and have been icing those areas instead.

Rest has been important, I've been trying (and mostly failing) to get more sleep. I've also only run once this week, for two slow miles, on Wednesday. This helped get the blood flowing again but wasn't enough to aggravate my knees...which were slightly irritated by my tight IT bands. I figure in one week my fitness isn't going to drastically decrease.

Lastly stretching..constantly! Mostly my IT band, TFL, Glutes and psoas muscles as these provide me with the most problems but of course everything got a little attention. My workmates officially think I'm crazy!

As I said I'm not super fit right now and definitely need to start doing a lot of strength and flexibility work to get there, so this next race will be for sightseeing purposes rather than trying for a particular finish time, so don't be expecting any PRs, ya hear me!

The race is the Tobacco Road Marathon, or in my case Half. It is run mostly on the American Tobacco Trail so I'm hoping it'll be pretty. It'll involve a very early start, I need to be parked by 5am, but it's to be expected when a large field of not only half marathoners but full ones need to be organized for a 7am start. 
Mostly I'll be enjoying the sights, like these pretty blossoms which seemed to have appeared everywhere overnight.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon

The Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon was held the 9th of March. The entry fee was $55 (when I entered) and $20 of that went to a local charity, Backpack Buddies, to feed children in need.

We drove down on Saturday, for two and a half hours, and went straight to packet pickup. It was at the Palmetto Running Co. Shop in Bluffton, SC.
 The packet consisted of my bib, a nice cotton t-shirt, a beer cozie and some leaflets/coupons.

I was a bit disappointed that not everyone got a technical T but the design was nice enough to make up for that. 
Since we couldn't check into our hotel until 3pm we headed to old Bluffton to take some pictures and walk around some quirky shops.
Afterwards our room wasn't ready, so we went for some food at Truffles Cafe. Here is where I discovered the best lemonade EVER! It was so good we went back for lunch the next day...just because of the lemonade.
Martina got in on the carb loading action

 After that it was all RnR to get ready for the race. The clocks moved forward the night before the race so I went to bed early. The race started at 9am which made getting up early to eat not so bad. The usual bun, PB and banana as well as coffee was my breakfast of choice. Then it was off to the race start. The directions to the start were a bit confusing...we were given directions to an address nowhere near the start but the course map said the parking was there, the wrong address was just to get us onto the right road...instead of just telling us go on Road X instead of Road Y. However, that was all fine on race morning as there were signs pointing us in the right direction. Lots of parking, lots of port-a-potties, equals a good start area. Many trips to the potties later the race began.

Yes that is me sneaking into the picture
The course was beautiful, flat and surrounded by trees draped in Spanish moss. It was all run on a private resort, Palmetto Bluff. We mostly ran on quiet roads with minimal traffic passing us. At around the 8 mile marker we passed through a village and across the only hill on the course, a short bridge over water. Considering the course was in a private resort there was a good number of spectators..including some good signs :)

I ran hard. I had stitches the entire first mile as I warmed up, not having done it before starting. Then it became a blur. I found my self running faster than my A goal pace (under 2 hour finish), hitting the 7 mile point, where the race organizers nicely put a time display, at 1 hour 1 minutes. I kept at it anyhow with bad moments coming and going. I just had to remember they'd pass. There were water stops with Gatorade every 2 miles, I carried my own drinks on my trusty belt. For the most part I continued to run fast (for me) and reveled in the fact that I was running strong and enjoyed that feeling. As I hit mile ten both my knees started to hurt as my hip flexors and stomach muscles tightened and tired, and my ITB decided it'd rub off my knee. Not marathon bad but it wasn't nice, and I was tired.

 At this stage I knew I was going to finished before 2 hours so I let myself have 3/4 30 second walking breaks. I'm not sure if I should be disappointed by that. I would have liked to be strong enough mentally to run through the pain but frankly I'm surprised that I began running again and kept my pace strong. I lost approx. 30 seconds per mile for the last 3 miles.  The mile markers were a bit messed up, I started to notice after mile 9, so the finish came upon me much sooner than I expected. I had no kick left in me but I ran steadily across the line to pick up a pretty nice medal.

Our bibs came with a coupon for a free River Dog Beer and BBQ. The beer was nice but I didn't partake in the BBQ. There was also a band playing music, water, fruit, Gatorade and a screen scrolling through finish times at the finish. 

I drank a bit of beer waiting for my bestie Martina to finish, wishing I was feeling well enough to go back and run the last mile with her. She came running in with a huge smile, finishing her first half with a great time, very proud!
A mad rush back to our hotel resulted in getting to shower in a partially cleaned hotel room before checkout. I think I showered in two seconds flat...but it would have been a long smelly car ride home without it. Feeling sore and tired, lunch was followed by a short nap at the beach and some outlet shopping.
Given that it's spring break this week the drive home was quiet as everyone was heading towards the beach not away from it! Finally we got home to the puppy which we both madly missed and that was the end to an awesome weekend.

Next weekend I'm running the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in NC, near Raleigh ekkk, let's hope my IT band appreciates the massage I'm getting tomorrow and co-operates. This next race is going to be an easy effort. I just really wanted to do the race, as it's touted as one of America's best Marathons (and half?) and who knows if I'll get the chance to run it next year! 
I'm gonna use this next race to play around with my race nutrition a bit, I ran on Gatorade this race, in case I needed to use the water stations. I also carried Gu Chomps but didn't eat any. I might try some next race to see if they help me finish stronger.
My Garmin FR220 was really easy to use, comfortable and light. It dropped GPS a couple of times for 30 seconds or so, so at times the pace was a bit off but other than that it was great. So that'll be making a reappearance.

Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon 1:54:47 PR. A time I feel I can improve on but one I'm proud of. I was disappointed by my marathon time (due to ITBS) so I'm really happy right now.

Overall a good race, I'd highly recommend. To read another perspective on the race you can read Martina's experience of her first half marathon.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Rest time

Well I did it! I finished the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon under 2 hours...1:54:47 to be exact. More to follow tomorrow.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Garmin FR220, my new toy!

Can you tell I got my taxes back. A chunk of it went towards upgrading my running watch. I haven't even taken it for a run but already I'm in love!

Much lighter, comfortable and who am I kidding prettier than my old FR 405 this feels great on my wrist. It sits much better and I can actually tighten it enough to feel comfortable, with the 405 it was always a little too tight or loose. Like Goldilocks I could never get it just right. 

Now my transition away from my phone is complete. I used my 405 a lot when I got it and for a long time afterwards, but it never felt great so I moved to using my phone to track runs. This worked when I was really only interested in finishing runs but now, as I try to do faster workouts, trying to check on my pace is harder and the phone apps don't quite cut it for pace accuracy, they just don't update fast enough. Recently I moved back to the 405 and realized even tho I didn't love it, a watch really was much better than holding a phone. 

Then I saw my lilac beauty. I'm a impulse shopper. I wouldn't say I buy just anything on impulse but when I see something I really really want, that's it I have to have it!

From a quick scroll through the menus this watch is much easier to more hated bezel. 

A few choices about choosing runs based on distance and time seem to have gone, but those options seemed pointless anyhow. What remains is a simple run go and when finished press stop and save. For more complex workouts, you can create custom workouts online or program in simple interval workouts on the watch itself.

 I also like the change in charger design it seems a bit more robust than the connection used to charge the 405. I also like the option of vibrating alerts..great for when I'm listening to music. 

It also comes with an option to pair with a phone/iPad thru Bluetooth to upload workouts and allow live tracking. My current iPhone (a 4) has older Bluetooth technology so it's not compatible. A quick google will tell you it's not compatible with android but I'm pretty sure that's been changed, again it depends on the type of Bluetooth you check for your specific device with garmin.

Anyhow it'll get its first test run this Sunday and I'll let you know how it performs.

For a full in depth review, which I'm not even gonna attempt, see DCRainmaker's excellent reviews.
 It's 'bigger' sister watch the 620 looks similar but is packed with extra features such as vo2 max estimation and projected recovery times for runs. I probably would look at these stats with interest every so often but they'll never be as accurate as lab testing, so for me the only feature I would have really liked is the wifi connectivity, but that just didn't justify the extra $200. Again see DCRainmaker for a full comparison, if you are thinking about buying either.

So my phone might not get cracked screens quite so often and my 405 goes on to be used by another runner hurrah!

Come on Race Weekend!

Having never got the chance to run a half during marathon training (as part of a race) I'm running a bunch of them this year. This weekend is the first of many. I'm heading to Bluffton, SC on Saturday to run what is promised to be a fast, flat route... The Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon! It's in a beautiful part of SC near Hilton Head so expect lots of pictures as well as the low down on the race.

I'm nervous, I've no worries that I'll finish but I've set myself an A goal of finishing under two hours. The fastest I've ran a half during marathon training was 2:06, so I'll be trying to take off a hefty 6 or so minutes, ekk! I've gotten faster since then. Fingers crossed if I don't go out too fast or my body doesn't fall apart, as it likes to in races, I should at least get close. My B goal is to sneak in under 2:06.

OK it's out there now I have to do it :D

Big shout out to my bestie Martina running her first half, good luck!