Monday, October 31, 2011

October Recap

Today was a cross-training day, and I got my spin workout done pre-dawn (that's how I like to do 'em).

Thanks to those of you who offered opinions on the fueling question I asked in my last post. I decided to eat something before my long run (something being a couple handfuls of corn flakes and a packet of Shot Bloks) but didn't bring anything along. I got 12.1 hilly miles done in the allotted two hours and felt good. I'll have a new post on my Mario Lopez eating tomorrow. I'm a little scared to get on the scale. Let's just say the hands haven't stayed out of the Halloween candy and too many restaurants were patronized in the last week and a half.

Thanks also for the sympathy on my insomnia issue last week. I think I'm back on an even keel with that, but I admit to having trouble getting my light out before 10:30 p.m. I've definitely struggled with feeling rested enough as a consequence. Oh well! Something to work on this week. Life is like one those carnival games where you have the huge hammer and you try to get all the heads that pop out of the box to be down at once. There's always one you can't get to right away, but you have to keep trying.

Here's a recap of October:

--I ran about 103 miles. I say "about" because many runs were done without my Garmin, just by time and feel. The miles are inching back up now. This past week saw 27.1 miles, the month's highest. I'm hoping this training cycle will see me healthy enough to peak at 50-something miles for a couple of weeks in December.

--I missed only one session of weight training (on insomnia day, when I opted to stay home and take a nap between my run and going to work). I'm making progress toward my one chin-up goal. Tomorrow at weight training I may try to do one on my own. I don't expect success at that yet, but I should be closer.

--I've been a decently regular attendee at spin class, which I'm supposed to go to twice a week. Christine and I were disappointed to learn that Tammy isn't teaching our early class any more, but the new teachers have been fine (if not quite as helpful in the "awesome new music" department as Tammy was). I need to get better about going to this twice a week. Once a week I've been good, but by Wednesday, when I'm supposed to go again, the bed is feeling pretty nice at 5 a.m. I have no trouble getting up to run, but getting up to cross-train....a different story.....

--I reached my Houston Marathon fundraising goal of $500 for the Houston Food Bank. This is terrific not only because it's such a good cause but because it's my first time using my running to raise money for a cause and so many of you made it amazingly easy. At $526, I'm $74 away from the $600 level at which I have promised to do a giveaway of some local goodies (and I'm not just talking about food goodies). If you can help me get to $600, please go to my fundraising page and donate. A big THANKS AGAIN to all of you who have already given.

--I've done a reasonably good job sticking to the Mario Lopez Extra Lean Family eating plan. All the Halloween action this past weekend threw it for a loop, and we ate out twice as a family because others invited us. I feel like my favorite pair of work pants are a little tight. We'll see where my weight and body fat readings are tomorrow morning--I'll try not to stress about it, whatever it is (I WILL be honest with you guys, I promise!), and get back on the wagon until Thanksgiving Week throws us for another loop. (I missed last week's weigh-in due to insomnia day--I just forgot to get the scale out after my run and by the time I remembered it was what I consider too late in the day to get a reading comparable to what I usually do.) Really, the most important thing has been the change in my habits. I've cut way back on foraging for my lunch and snacks while at work and on scrambling to figure out what to feed my kids and husband on days I'm at home.

--I marked my one-year anniversary of the launch of my Boston quest, and this blog. Thanks again to everyone for all the support. Congratulations to all of you who ran this past weekend in races long and short.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Long Run Fueling Question

My long runs will finally return to being long for real this weekend. I have a two-hour long and steady scheduled for tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to this because last weekend's hour-and-45-minute effort felt so good. But I have a secret I didn't share, a factor that may have contributed to the run's niceness.

I fueled.

Now I know a lot of people fuel before every training run, or at least before every long one. And not only that, they also carry fuel with them for the "during" part. I don't usually do that. In the long-ago past, I didn't do it because, well, at first no one told me I should and later on I was afraid of what it would do to my gut. In the first three marathons I ran (Houston in 1997, Boulder and New York in 2005), I ate and drank nothing but water during the races or the training runs that preceded them (with the exception of New York, before which I did consume a bagel because the start was relatively late).

My fourth marathon, Top of Utah last month, was the first marathon where I fueled consciously before and during the race. And yeah, it made a *huge* difference in the way I felt. (Yes, I bonked, but that was due to stupid race execution, not fueling mistakes.)

So now that I know better (and know, more or less, how to handle my gut), why don't I fuel before and during my training runs? Because of an article on the marathon long run that Greg McMillan wrote. McMillan training plans like mine include two types of long runs: long steady ones and fast finish efforts, the latter being where you DO fuel before and during because you are trying to simulate race conditions and get your body used to race pace and preparations. In contrast, for the long steady ones, where time on your feet at a relatively easy pace is the only goal of the workout, McMillan advocates NOT fueling.

You avoid fueling on the long steadies, he writes, "so that the muscles will become better at sparing the carbohydrate stores, more efficient at burning fat and used to running with lowered blood glucose levels. Now, many people think I'm crazy when I say this, but it works. It takes time to get adjusted to it if you have always been carbing up before and during your long runs, but with time and practice you can do it." (He does note that it is important to drink water and electrolytes throughout these runs and he recommends carrying an energy gel with you just in case you run into problems, like taking a wrong turn that adds unexpected time and distance.)

This is what I did during Top of Utah training, and it is what I have been planning to do for Houston training too. I don't know if it made my body more efficient at fat-burning and sparing carbs, but because of my prior races where I never fueled, I knew I could at least handle it and I figured it couldn't hurt. And I found my long runs without fueling were more consistently successful than my attempts at fueled fast-finish long ones (though I think that's due more to running too fast during the week and leaving nothing in the tank for these efforts, something I'm trying to improve this time by running more conservatively during the week).

Then came last weekend's long run. Why did I eat something before the run? Because I slept in and woke up hungry. My body is used to waking up early and not eating before a run. I've gotten to the point where I don't even consider eating while I'm knocking around in the dark getting my clothing on and sucking down some water (on the fast-finish long runs last cycle, I had to put Shot Bloks etc. out with my clothing to remind myself that this time I was *supposed* to eat to practice for race day). But push me too much past my usual breakfast time and it's harder not to eat. What can I say? The sun was shining like orange juice into the kitchen. My whole family was awake. I took one look at my kids' tasty Cheerios and smelled Dan's toast....and I had to eat something. The something was a package of Cran-Razz Shot Bloks. Yum. Result? Great run.

And now, because I felt so good, I'm wondering if I shouldn't always eat before and during. After all, I'm not one of McMillan's elites, for whom changes like this to their finely-honed routines might give them a real edge. What do you think? Is making the fueling a part of the "race day" advantage worth some bonky long ones in training? Or should I just eat something already?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Can you read this? Unfortunately, it's true for me tonight.
One benefit of marathon training that I didn't expect is that since I launched into it in June I have been sleeping much better.

I had a rough time with the sleep deprivation that comes with small babies. Our kids slept through the night fairly quickly (around four or five months it was pretty consistent), but those of you with kids know that even good sleepers are easily disrupted by things like illness, feeding routine changes and potty training--and they don't necessarily wake up at the reasonable morning hour you want them to. So even when we weren't feeding infants in the night any more, the sleep wasn't great--not for someone like me, who really needs eight uninterrupted hours a night under normal circumstances and when running a lot does best with nine or ten.

It made me into a bit of an insomniac. Up until last summer, if one of the kids woke for a bathroom trip or a nightmare or a wet bed, it often meant the end of my night's sleep, no matter what time it was. I'd lie awake staring at the ceiling, wondering if and when they'd emerge to wake me up again. This happened several times a week, more nights than it didn't happen. It's a big reason I didn't consider training for a marathon at all until last year. I just didn't think I could get the sleep I needed to support the training.

Happily, the training seems to have helped take care of the sleep issue to a certain extent. Since upping my miles, I sleep more deeply, so that even when one or both of the kids wake me, I go back to sleep fast and stay that way most of the time. When a daytime nap is possible, I find myself falling asleep easily then, too, and waking refreshed.

But it's still not perfect, as tonight illustrates. Will, my son, startled me awake from a deep sleep right at midnight. I took him to the bathroom. An hour later (and I hadn't fallen asleep again this time), he was back. I took him back to bed again. And that was it. I've been awake ever since. As I type, it's 4:17 a.m. I moved to the couch about an hour ago, afraid I was going to wake Dan, resulting in two grumpy adults tomorrow. My plan is to wait until 5:30, when my alarm was due to go off anyway, get my six miles in and then go back to bed until I'm due at work at noon. Tuesdays are my night shift, so I'll be there until 9 p.m. There will be no chance for running or napping in the afternoon.

It's bleak. Outside, a cold front is moving in. I can hear the leaves skittering on the porch and in the street, and the wind is whistling eerily at the corners of the windows. I know my run will make me feel at least temporarily better, but I won't feel safe going out until it's a bit closer to dawn (even at 5:30 around here there are people headed out to work, so I'm not alone out there in the dark).

Now I know to some of you I am a big ol' wimp. I'm not nursing a baby, and I don't have special needs kids (bed-wetters who soak through pull-ups don't count as "special needs") or an unhelpful husband (Dan handles as many night wakings as I do; he just doesn't have the same issue I do with returning to sleep after them). But regardless, I'm sick of this. Yes, it's been better than it was. But any insomnia is too much insomnia. I'm ready for it to be over for good. Maybe this is melodramatic, but I'm afraid if it goes on much longer it will be a problem I'll never shake.

Perhaps we haven't disciplined our kids properly--shouldn't almost-five-year-olds be capable of going to the bathroom in the night without waking their parents? If anyone out there has any advice on how to get that ball rolling, I'm all ears and bloodshot eyes. I am not a sentimental parent, especially when it comes to sleep. I remember as a kid myself being very respectful of my parents' sleep. I never woke them, unless I had thrown up or had a fever. What I don't remember is how they got me to be that way!

Update: It's 7:15 and I just returned from a 6-mile progression run. One kid is up--everyone else is still asleep. And you know what? I feel awesome! The weather was amazing--cool breezes, and everywhere the golden leaves, the yellow and red ones, wafting down on me in the glow of the streetlamps and later the rising sun. Walking down the sidewalk at the end, I felt like I was in some musical on stage. I know I'll be tired later, but this is the magic of running. I now feel good about this day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Versatile Blogger

Big thanks to Julie over at You Just Have to Tri! for tagging me with the Versatile Blogger award. The award I actually should get is the Lazy Blogger award, but this one sounds a lot better. These "tag" posts are fun because you can learn a lot about your fellow bloggers, things they probably wouldn't have thought to share.

There are a few basic rules with this award:
1. You have to thank the giver, and provide a link to that person's post. Thanks Julie! I love your blog and especially the recent pics of your adventure race. Hopefully we can meet soon, since we live in the same general area (I should have met Julie already, but remember what I said above about being Lazy).
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
3. Award 15 other newly discovered blogs the same award.

Here are some random facts about me that I don't think I've shared here before:

1. I want to organize a 5K with my brother and sister and all seven of our first cousins on my dad's side of the family at some point. Some would walk, some would run, but all would finish and it would be a great family reunion. We might even let some of our parents do it too! :^)

2. Speaking of cousins, I have seven first cousins on my dad's side and seven on my mom's side. But my own kids have only one first cousin on my husband's side and only one-on-the-way on my side. I love cousins. My first cousins are all wonderful, and I have tons of awesome second and even third ones that I grew up with, too. Cousins are like brothers and sisters who don't live with you. I hope my kids eventually have more.

3. I've lived in Missouri, Texas, New York City and now Colorado. That's the Midwest, the South, the East Coast and the West. I think people from the Midwest are the most unpretentiously friendly people in the country (but maybe I'm biased because Missouri is where I grew up). Where do you think the friendliest folks in the USA are?

4. I lived overseas in Paris briefly in college, for a year in Russia for the Peace Corps and have traveled in Canada, Mexico, Western Europe, China and Costa Rica. There were fantastic things about all of these places, but I think the most laid-back people were in Canada and the most "instantly family-style friendly" were in Russia. Where do you think the friendliest folks in the world are?

5. If I could have any talent I desired (aside from being a faster runner, of course), I would wish for singing talent. I love to sing, but only my kids seem to enjoy hearing me do it. :^)

6. My grandmother used to say I'd better take my calcium or she would haunt me after she died (she was always worried about us girls developing osteoporosis). Now that she has been gone for three years, I wish she would haunt me, calcium or no. I miss her.

7. I think I'm probably done having kids. If I change my mind about that down the road, I will adopt.

OK! And now for the newly discovered blogs. I've found a lot of great new-to-me ones in recent weeks (maybe you've been reading these for a long time). Here they are, in alpha order, with one beyond the required 15:

Adventure Is Out There
average girl doing average things
Colorado Runner
Getting It Done on the Run
Just a Colorado Gal
Miles, Miles and More Miles.....
Mostly Fit Mom
Pace of Me
Run the Long Road
Run With the Black Knight
Runner Woman
Runnin' From the Law
Running Around on Empty
Running On Words
Will Race for Carbs

Can't wait to see what you post, should you accept this tag. (I have a lot of old favorites, too, and probably left some of the new ones I've been reading off that list. Apologies to all of you--my Google Reader now has 88 subscriptions, I get several via email and I do my best to keep up, but I know I miss things sometimes.)

Quick Running Update: We've been having gorgeous weather out here, and the leaves are the most magnificent I've seen in my years in Colorado. Yesterday I had an hour and 45 minute run on the schedule. I slept in a bit (7:30!! that's late in my house!!), and felt grumpy when I started. I'm reading an intriguing but disturbing book right now, and it was on my mind. So much so that the first five miles of this run were over before I knew it. And suddenly I realized I was really enjoying myself.

In the end, I did 11.1 miles in the allotted time. I didn't go over, tempted as I was. I'm trying to stick with the instructions in my McMillan plan to the letter. Early last week Greg McMillan posted two quotes on his Twitter feed that I  need to remember:

"The hardest concept for distance runners? The process of becoming a better runner is loooong, not short. This runs counter to modern life."

"Fitness is built over time. Period. It can't be wished for or rushed. Patience grasshopper. Build toward the future."

This grasshopper is building. And trying to be patient.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breaking the Routine

My husband, Dan, who has been sidelined for too long with a sore Achilles tendon, has been easing back into running. One of his co-workers introduced him to a phenomenal network of trails behind the laboratory complex where they work, and he's been doing this trail (and telling me about it) twice a week for a couple of months. Today, we decided, was the day for me to come up and run it with him.

Now, I'm a creature of routine. Part of that routine is that I am an early-morning get-it-done-so-nothing-else-interferes runner. On my schedule for today was a one-hour easy run with strides at the end. Normally I'd have that sucker all done and dusted by 7 a.m. But since I was running with Dan on his trail I needed a new plan. It made me a bit nervous, but in the end it all worked out beautifully.

I slept in, not exiting my bed until 7:20 (this part of busting the routine was niiiiiiiiice). I anxiously inspected my kids for any sign of illness (because I was sure that, given I hadn't run yet, one of them would need to stay home and I'd miss running altogether). I took the (perfectly healthy) kids to school and then went to weight training (more on that below). I met some co-workers for lunch. I did a little work (anxious the whole time that my reference desk hours would change and I'd miss running altogether). And then the hour arrived! I called Dan, told him I was on my way, changed in our little locker room and began my run.

The first 30 minutes were me running on my own up to Dan's lab. I decided to run up 9th St., which is a large, long uphill. Then I would run down Baseline, another large, long hill (this time down!) that terminates about 1/4 mile from where I was meeting Dan. These two hills, both up and down, felt amazingly easy. I got to the lab in 23 minutes and jogged in circles waiting for him. I admit, I was feeling cocky.

Soon Dan emerged and we set off up toward the trail.The first hill (which took us by the kids' school) felt easy. But as soon as we hit the dirt fire road, I started to feel that first 30 minutes (and the squats and lunges I'd done earlier in weight training). Soon I had slowed to a shuffle.You'd never know that Dan was the one who had been injured. He was chatting away about the trail, the foliage, the fresh air, his pace steady and confident. That's the kind of runner he is. He seems to be able to come back from the longest lay-offs without having to endure that humiliating huff-and-puff stage that so many of us have to get through to enjoy running again.

Eventually the dirt road veered into a trail and we were going up a little valley below the Mesa Trail, where I'd run on Saturday. Then we climbed an even steeper path to the top of a small mesa. I lagged a good 10 feet behind my sprightly husband. My cockiness had all drained away. Then....the climb was over. We paused at the top to take in the view. And then the fun began!

As we began the fast run back down, I at last was able to notice the red and golden leaves, the blue sky, the silky-cold air on my skin, the smell of sun-warmed pine. We talked and laughed, remembering other runs we'd done together (including the Bay to Breakers Race, which we ran side-by-side in 2004), chatting about how Dan and one of his work friends had run this trail and some others on their way to a brew-pub on Friday. We were on a date--a running date! I looked down at my Garmin at one point and saw that we were doing a 6:59 pace. Isn't downhill a miraculous thing? Isn't it amazing what you can do when you're trying to impress a good-looking guy?

When we finished, he drove me back to work. And now that the run is done I'm SO glad I busted out of the routine and had this wonderful hour with my husband--even if he ran stronger than I!

Quick Mario Lopez Eating and Body Fat Update: Mario, Week 3, went well, despite some extra cheese and chocolate and coffee with real cream consumed over the weekend while Wendy was here. My Tuesday weigh-in was as follows:

Home scale: 128.4 pounds (unchanged from last week); body fat=21.9% (lower than last week!)
Gym scale: 129 pounds even (up from last week, but I'm not super worried about this as I'd had a big breakfast and hadn't run, so I was probably better hydrated than usual)

The best news is that my trainer, Chris, took my body fat measurements with calipers. Several people have told me this is way more accurate than home scales. Chris's reading this morning? 19.7%! Rock on! I lifted weights with extra gusto after that. Thanks to Jill for suggesting I have this done.

One Year of Blogging! Tomorrow (October 19) marks the one-year anniversary of my first post on this blog. I feel I've come a long way and I have so many of you to thank. I have not yet made it to my BQ, but thanks to all of you I am starting to really believe it can be done.

Can We Make It to $600 for the Houston Food Bank? At $526, I'm $74 away from the $600 level at which I have promised to do a giveaway of some tasty and healthful Boulder goodies. Wendy and I visited Celestial Seasonings this weekend and I bought the first item for this huge gift pack. Do you want to be entered to win it? If so, go to my fundraising page and donate! A big THANKS AGAIN to all of you who have already given.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mesa Trail Redux!

The foliage along the trail is at its fall peak!
My friend Wendy, whom I've known for almost 20 years and still lives in NYC, visited us this weekend. Yesterday she suggested that for my long run, we go somewhere with trails so she could hike while I ran. Excellent idea! So I did my 90 minutes on the Mesa Trail.

Some of you may recall that this is one of four "classic Boulder runs" I tried to complete last spring before launching into marathon training. I got three of the four done, including a two-hour jaunt on the Mesa Trail. It's a wonderful place to run, especially in October when it's still warm and dry (but not TOO warm or dry). And I'm pleased to say that on yesterday's excursion I felt so much stronger than I did last spring. One day later, I have no soreness, whereas last time I felt as though I had done a race. A good sign!

After we had finished, Wendy and I went to the Boulder Farmers' Market, had lunch, picked up some treats for later--and she took this video of me hula hooping (still in my running clothes). Hope you all had as fun a weekend as we did!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steady As She Goes

Today featured another one-hour run with a 20-minute portion in the middle to be done at my Steady State pace. For me, that's between 8:40 and 8:55 a mile, slower than tempo but faster than easy.

Last week, I wasn't able to accomplish even 10 minutes at Steady Pace--I went too fast and quit after six minutes that averaged 8:21/mile. You might think, well, what's wrong with going FASTER than you're supposed to? Aren't you trying to get faster?

Absolutely! But I'm also trying to learn how to pace myself. Going 20 seconds/mile faster than prescribed is as much a pacing fail as going 20 seconds slower. It might be worse, in fact. It's my belief that pushing my pace on mid-week runs while I was ramping up for the Top of Utah Marathon hurt my ability to accomplish my weekend long run goals, and ultimately my race goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. That's why this cycle I'm going to do my best to stay in the pace bands dictated by the McMillan Running Calculator. (My paces right now are based on my finish time of 3:59:11 at Top of Utah. They'll be adjusted later depending on how I do in my tune-up races.)

So how did my run today go? MUCH better. I ran 20 minutes at a very easy pace, then put the pedal down just a bit for the next 20 minutes, then slowed down for the final 20 minutes. Here's what my splits looked like for that Steady State portion:

Mile 1--8:44
Mile 2--8:37
Final .31--8:32

It was still on the faster end--that last 3/10 I should definitely have slowed down more. But it was a big improvement over last week. I'm particularly pleased because this run featured a nice set of rolling hills. I didn't cheat by running only flat or downhill. And I also left the music at home. The speeding up and the maintenance of pace were done without musical inspiration.

Areas where I can still improve: holding the pace when I know the fast part is almost over (I always tend to speed up at that point); and slowing down enough when the fast portion is over (the final 20 minutes were run a bit faster than my easy pace; I justify this because the first 20 minutes were slower; hopefully it will come out in the wash).

Here's a link to my Garmin data for this run:

Other notable features of today: I was really sore from weight training, but it didn't affect my running. Score! And this morning was the first one where, when I stepped outside, I realized I was COLD in shorts. Not a little chilly, not thinking it was brisk, but actually "Geez, I wish I had my gloves and jacket" cold. In the end, it was fine. But it was a nudging reminder: Fall is getting on, and winter is coming.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Awesome Doc and Mario Week 2 Recap

As a city employee, I get good benefits. The best, I know as a wife and mom, is health insurance, but that's not as sexy (to me) as the free membership I get to the Boulder Recreation Center, home of my weight training and spin classes. One condition of this membership, though, is that I have to get my blood drawn every year for a cholesterol/glucose analysis as part of the City Wellness Program.

This meant a visit to my doctor at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine this morning. My doctor is *great.* He effectively fixed my Morton's neuroma back in February, was super kind when I came down with a kidney infection in July after the ZOOMA Women's Half and he's been helping me try to get to the bottom (so to speak) of my tricky intestines.

He's also a badass runner. This morning I had the following conversation with him before the Wellness Program blood draw. Have you ever had a conversation like this with your doctor?

HIM: So your kidneys have been OK? No residual pain?
ME: Oh yeah. That was the other thing about my marathon. 15-minute PR, no pooping during the race, and no bladder infection! Yeah, they've been fine.
HIM: Great! You know, I ran Chicago on Sunday.
ME: Really?! How'd you do?
HIM: Well, I'm a master now, I'm 41, and there's good money at that race for masters, like $2,500, so I thought I'd go for it. And I was doing great, on a 2:30 pace. But it was hot and I just couldn't eat, and at mile 17 I just died. Those last nine miles were torture. I did pull out a 2:50 but I had to walk for about 15 minutes at one point.
ME: (trying not to let my mouth drop open at "2:30 pace" and "2:50") Yeah, that happened to me in my race too...except I DID eat. Makes me feel better that guys like you walk sometimes, too.
HIM: Yeah, it was my first marathon. I really want to do another one now and get it right. I guess I should do Boston, since I qualified.

I guess!! His first marathon! 2:50! And that was with a bonk! He told me he had four GUs in his pockets during the race and couldn't bring himself to touch them.

I'm so glad this guy is treating me, that there is a facility like this here. A couple weeks back, I was in there briefly and had the door opened for me by Frank Shorter. Ah Boulder.

Today is Tuesday, so that meant weighing in. Not such good news on the body fat front home scale read 22.5%, and because I had to leave weights class early for the doc appointment, I didn't have a chance to get my trainer, Chris, to do a measurement with the calipers as I had planned. My weight, at least, was unchanged on the home scale at 128.4 pounds, and a little lower on the gym scale, at 128.2. I might have been a bit dehydrated, as I had to fast for the blood draw and had run 6 miles in the wee hours.

The second week of the Mario Lopez Extra Lean Family eating plan didn't go quite as smoothly as the first, though the planning, shopping and prep were once again fine. Part of the issue was it's "that time of the month" and at that time I'm always ravenous for things I shouldn't be eating--like second helpings of Mario's chicken enchiladas and other tasty things. I also caved and took the kids to a coffee shop once for their snack, which didn't harm me (I drank unsweetened green tea), but wasn't exactly easy on the pocketbook.

On the upside, we once again stayed out of restaurants entirely (two weeks of no eating out is a record, I think), and my fruit and vegetable consumption is way up. This week I'll do my best to keep the portions reasonable again, and my hands out of the snack trough at work. I'm still really liking the ease of this plan. I actually ordered Mario's book. It's a big deal for this cheap librarian to actually BUY a book, if that tells you anything.

Finally, I have MET my $500 goal for the Houston Marathon/Houston Food Bank's Run for Food Program. YOU FOLKS ROCK!! In fact, at $506, I'm now just $94 away from the $600 level at which I have promised to do a giveaway of some tasty and healthful Boulder goodies. Can you help me keep it going? If so, go to my fundraising page and donate! A big THANKS AGAIN to all of you who have already given. I'm so happy about this.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Arrives in Earnest!

Will in a kid's natural habitat (leaves, not box)
Fall has arrived in Colorado in earnest. Yesterday after my husband Dan got home from work, he and the kids raked the golden leaves that now are covering our front yard into a giant pile--and played like crazy in it. My beloved St. Louis Cardinals defeated Dan's beloved Philadelphia Phillies in a classic pitchers' duel for the National League Division Championships last night (that was a tense night).

One person here was NOT happy after this game.
This morning I went for a run and found the long-talked-of cold front that has supposedly been stalking us had finally arrived. Dan had said to expect rain, too. When I left for my 90 minutes at about 7 a.m. (ah, sleeping in!), there was no rain yet, but it was in the 40s, with a chilly leaf-rattling breeze and low clouds. I LOVED it! When the drizzle started, it just felt good.

I left the Garmin at home and concentrated on keeping the pace easy. I also added some hilliness by running up and down a grid of streets that are on the side of a semi-steep hill near my house, weaving down from 3rd Ave. to 2nd, then running a flat block east, then running back up to 3rd. This lasted a good 20 minutes or so. I'm going to try to keep my long runs hilly as they build back up in time and miles this cycle.

I also left the music at home. I haven't run with music since the Top of Utah Marathon. I'm going to reserve it for really speedy workouts, tempo runs and races.

Kathy and me after last spring's Run Like a Mother anniversary run in Denver
Another sign of fall? All the marathons this weekend, and next, and into November! I'd like to send a special shout-out to my friend Kathy who is running her FIRST full marathon in Portland tomorrow morning. Kathy was in every race I ran this summer except Top of Utah. She has been training hard for her big one this weekend with a great group of women who all live near her in the southern suburbs of Denver. She is going to do so well!! Good luck, Kathy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One Chin-Up and Six Minutes Too Fast

In addition to being a wimp about running as a kid, I was also a wimp about anything strength-related. The ONE year I managed to get the 50th percentile award for physical fitness I barely hung on for the required nine seconds in the cursed flexed arm hang.

But when I started running at age 12 with my dad, we'd do our two miles on one of those 80s-era fitness courses. One of the stations was a chip-up bar. Watching my dad knock some out, I conceived the desire to do just one chin-up. I even put it on a list of goals I wrote down on a piece of pink paper and carried around in my wallet as a teenager. It never happened. And honestly for a long time I thought I just wasn't capable of it. (Some of the other goals on the list did happen! I saw my byline in a national publication; I drove a Porsche; I've seen several shooting stars; and I've skinny-dipped. Ah, the dreams of a teenager!)

I've been back at my weight-training class now for five sessions. One of the things on the list for today was assisted chin-ups on one of those machines that makes the exercise easier by giving you a bit of a counter to your body weight. I found them sort of.....easy...with the extra help. I asked my trainer, Chris, if he ever thought I could do a chin-up on my own. He didn't hesitate: "Yeah, I think you're really close."

So now, without really meaning to, I have another goal: do one unassisted chin-up. Chris gave me a plan for getting there and reassured me that because it's all upper-body, trying for this while training for the Houston Marathon will not be a problem (and Chris is notoriously conservative, so I don't think he'd say that if he didn't mean it).

This is a good thing because it will keep me from wimping out of weight training later when the miles get harder (of course I will still take an intentional break from it a month to six weeks out from my race, whether the fabled chin-up has yet occurred or not). This is a good thing. Weight training is a deadly chore for me. Now it will be something more.

Meanwhile, on the running front, I'm still having trouble with pacing. This morning's hour-long run featured an optional finish of five to ten minutes at what McMillan calls a steady state pace. This pace is faster than easy, but not as hard as tempo. For me, it's supposed to be between 8:40 and 8:55 a mile.

The run felt wonderful (ah, fall!) and exactly 50 minutes into it I sped up as instructed. I chose a hilly course, too, as I need to practice finishing strong when the going gets tough. But my problem, as it was all summer, was that I couldn't keep it steady. Even with the hills, my Garmin pace never got higher than 8:30/mile. So after six minutes and change of this, I cut my losses and slowed back down. My final pace? 8:21. Too fast.

I have work to do on this. It seems like I have three gears: slow, tempo and fast. There's no intermediate speed, or at least not one that I can maintain without either speeding up or slowing down too much. I must learn to feel it!! Practice, practice, practice!! I want my long runs to rock this cycle. Going too fast on Thursday morning runs will NOT help with that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September Recap and Body Fat Verdict!

September was a blur.

Since much of it was taken up with either tapering to or recovering from a marathon, I didn't keep track of my mileage. The month's accomplishment was:

*My 15-minute PR and first sub-4-hour time in the Top of Utah Marathon!*

True, it wasn't much of a sub-4 (3:59:11). In fact, this was a disappointing race from a lot of perspectives. I didn't qualify for Boston (far from it). I went out too fast and bonked (hard). I didn't stick to my race plan. I walked (where I hadn't planned to).

So why was and am I not disappointed?

In many ways, I was "like a virgin" with this one. It had been six years and one twin pregnancy since I had run a marathon. I had forgotten what it was like. The prior three times I had done it, I was able to sleep as much as I wanted, go to as much yoga as I wanted and (within the predictable confines of my job) do the runs whenever they fit in.

This time, my window for working out was limited not just by work but by the needs of my husband and kids. It took me two years to get my "base" conditioning back (I didn't run at all after the first three months of pregnancy and for about three months after, and beyond that I ran mostly slowly and not very far). I dealt with two winters of frequent illness (mine and my kids'). And I find myself living in a reshaped body that almost entirely lacks the core strength it once had. I also learned my lesson about pacing and running my own race, about making strength training and stretching non-negotiable, about getting back my core, about what it really will take to meet my Boston goal.

So I'll take a PR and a sub-four.

Now, on to my body fat/weight results from this morning.....(drumroll).......

Home scale: 128.4 pounds and 21.9% BF (both my lowest on that scale since I got pregnant, when I was right around 125 (not sure was BF was then))

Gym scale: weight 128.6 pounds (only 2/10 of a pound higher than the home scale, and this reading was *after* I ate breakfast, so I'm really happy about it; means my home scale is semi-accurate)

Bonus reading: I went to the City of Boulder employee health fair this morning after weights. They had one of those hand-held body fat readers. The reading on that? 17.2%!!! Wow!

Here's the caveat, according to the nice ladies at the fitness table (and just goes to show you learn something new every day): My home body fat scale apparently measures my lower-body fat percentage, while the hand-held measures my upper-body fat percentage. This doesn't surprise me: I am, have been and always will be pear-shaped (alas), and those readings reflect my, um, ample hips and thighs as well as my relatively scrawny arms and trunk.

I was told to get a decently accurate overall number, I should average those two together and round up. Which gives me a number of: 20%. Woo hoo!

Now of course I'm not going to call it good and stop worrying about it. By January, when the Houston Marathon rolls around, I'd love to be at my calculated "racing weight" of 120 (or as close to it as possible). And I'd love my home monitor to register a number that's closer to 19 or 20% (if lower half genetics allow).

So while I'm psyched that weight training, plus the Mario Lopez eating plan, appear to be working, I've still got a ways to go. Lucky thing all the good news has me re-energized for some healthy cooking and some heavy lifting (both of which normally bore me to tears!).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Recap of Mario Lopez Eating: Week 1

Sorry to frighten you with that picture, but I can't resist any reference to the 80s. Or I guess early 90s. I got a funny note from my sister-in-law, who's a California girl, talking about Mario's sleazy tomcat ways and how ironic it is that he's writing books for families. I'm not really surprised. But hey! I still like the book (and I'm using the library copy for now, so I haven't lined his pockets yet, though I probably will buy it).

Before I fill you in on the scintillating details of my family's first week on the Mario Lopez Extra Lean Family eating plan, let me put in another request for donations to my Run for Food/Houston Marathon fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank. Click here to donate.

OK! So...the week went well. I had gone on a mondo shoppning excursion Saturday night, stocking up with most of the things we would need for the entire week. This itself was a big change from the piecemeal grocery shopping we usually do, which is to say, Dan and I calling or emailing each other at about 4:30 p.m. with the "Any ideas for dinner?" question and then one of us beating a hasty path to the store ahead of picking up the kids. Having done the shopping was g-r-e-a-t. It made all the evenings so much less stressful. We did have to make one other trip on Thursday, to pick up some more fruit (my kids eat more fruit than Mario predicted--a good problem to have)...but I stayed out of the (expensive) organic grocery store across the street from my library all week.

The other great result: I brought all of my meals and snacks to work. I had all the kids' meals and snacks ready to go at home on the days I was with them (I can't tell you how many afternoons I've just taken them to a coffeeshop because I have nothing to give them--way too much expensive pumpkin bread consumed). And no dinners were left to chance. We didn't eat out once, any of us.

We are now geared up for Week 2. I went on this week's mondo shopping excursion last night, and this morning made a big pot of turkey chili for dinners tonight and Wednesday and some quinoa for a salad on Tuesday night (Sunday is Mario's prep day). Last night, the plan fell apart a bit as we went over to some friends' house for dinner, and I had FAR too many chips with guac, chips with bean dip and chicken enchiladas that were decidedly NOT extra lean, as well as too many of Mario's "lean" brownies (which were my contribution to the evening--and mmm, they were good). But we don't do that very often, so I figure if that's the worst I did, it will be OK.

Has my leanness (or lack thereof) been affected yet? Doubtful. I will check in with my bodyfat scale on Tuesday morning after my run and report back. Tuesday is scale day for me. I generally weigh myself both on my own at home (thus getting the bodyfat reading) and also on the one at the gym after weight training.

Regardless of what the scale says, trying this out has been great so far on a number of other fronts. I love having the meals planned, the healthy food we need bought, the guesswork removed, the restaurants and coffeeshops avoided, the spending on unnecessary grocery trips eliminated. I don't love shopping on Saturday nights, but really, since I'm at home with two sleeping kids most Saturdays anyway, it's not like I'm sacrificing great social alternatives.

Bring on more, Mario! Saved by the book!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recovery is Over!

This morning I ran for 60 minutes, bringing my second and last week of easy recovery runs after the Top of Utah Marathon to a close. I had to get up early as Dan was traveling to a south Denver suburb for a go tournament (never heard of go? it's an ancient Eastern game involving black and white stones and trying to conquer territory on a gridded board; it makes my mind bend like a pretzel, but Dan loves it).

I owe Dan big time. He gave me an entire weekend for Top of Utah and has taken the kids solo pretty much every Saturday morning for a year so I could get in my long runs. He's going to continue doing that, and has also given me the OK to run a half-marathon this fall that will require travel, as well as several days in Houston in January for the marathon, its build-up and its (hopefully happy) aftermath. He can play as much go as he wants, and I hope some other fun things come up for him this fall so I can give back to him again and again.

The run this morning was beautiful. The weather was chilly, clear and cloudless. I was doing a rolling course, and at the top of one small hill I could see Pikes Peak, 135 miles to the south, hulked there like a massive iceberg. Much closer to the west loomed the massive pair that dominates the northern Front Range: Longs Peak and Meeker Mountain. I enjoyed the easy pace, the fact that there was no need to push myself. I like easy runs, but I know that it's the hard ones that make the easy ones so nice.

So I'm excited that next week I'm finally allowed to put some fast stuff back into the mix. It's not much--up to 10 20-second surges embedded in Tuesday's run and 10 "steady state" minutes in Thursday's--but it's enough of a contrast with the post-marathon slow-down to get me going. And next Saturday I get to do 90 minutes, which at my slow and steady long-run pace should be nine miles. Yay! Nine miles!

I'm going to do my best to stick to the McMillan Running Calculator paces predicted by my Top of Utah time. I admit that I didn't always do this in the last training cycle. The paces felt quite slow in the mid-week fast efforts, and I usually ran faster at the track (in particular) than the calculator dictated. When the time came for goal-pace runs and fast-finish long runs, I fell short too often. I'm going to see if slowing down in the fast efforts will pay me back in greater ease in these key longer ones later in the week.

My new plan also calls for a 10K on November 12 and a half-marathon on December 3. So after finishing this post I will be signing up for:

The Longmont Turkey Trot--this 10K is right here at home! No travel, and the kids can run/walk the 2-mile event if they come with us (maybe Dan will want to do this, too, in which case we'll get a sitter!).

The Rock Canyon Half Marathon--this one's in Pueblo and it's the only semi-nearby half on that date, so it will mean one night in a hotel. The course looks on the hard side, but hey, they can't and shouldn't all be downhill races and I've done worse.

I'm hoping for a PR in both of those races. If I achieve that, it will mean the only pre-pregnancy PR still standing will be my 5K mark (and I'd love to take care of that one after Houston, though at 22:34 it might be the hardest to beat).

As you can see, it's going to be an awesome fall. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!