Monthly Archives: August 2011

Running Routes

After running 18 miles two weeks ago and 20 last weekend I have been thinking about different types of running routes. Choosing the right running route can make or break a run for me. I noticed that my 18 miler felt much harder than my 20 miler did, even though it was 2 miles less in distance. That’s because my 18 miler was on an out-and-back route, and my 20 miler was on a big looped route. Personally, I prefer looped routes because out-and-back routes are much more difficult for me mentally. However, each type of route has its pros and cons. I thought about this a lot on my last long run and thought I’d write a blog post on it!

Here are my thoughts on the two most common types of running routes.

Out-and-Back Routes

PROS:

  • Good for running in a new or unfamiliar area because it’s easy to know how to get back.
  • No thinking involved except remembering to turn around when it’s time.
  • After the turn around you know exactly what to expect on the way back and how much more you will have to go based on landmarks and what you remembered.
  • Good for shorter distances (3-6 miles). Knowing you will turn around soon is motivating and the time usually flies by.
  • Easier to extend or shorten your run if you need to, while still knowing exactly how many miles you will be running.

CONS:

  • After the turn around you know exactly what to expect on the way back and how much more you will have to go (this is a pro and also a con sometimes!)
  • Can be very boring and monotonous! Not much of a change of scenery.
  • Not as good for longer distances. For example, if you are running 18 miles that day it can be depressing to turn around and know that you still have 9 miles to get back to where you started.
  • Along the same lines, sometimes it scares me to know that I am so many miles out from where I started in case something were to happen (like injury or bad weather).  I have experienced both of these on an out-and-back trail when I was very far from my car and it has scarred me for life!

Looped Routes

PROS:

  • Easier to break the run up into smaller sections, which makes the run feel easier. For example I broke this 20 mile run into 6 sections – 6.5 miles, 4.5 miles, 1 mile, 5 miles, 1 mile, and 2 miles (each time I turned onto a new road). This is much less overwhelming for my brain to handle when compared to running out 10 miles then turning around.
  • Along the same lines, there is a constant change of new scenery that keeps your mind from getting bored.
  • Looped routes usually don’t take you out as far as an out-and-back route would, which always makes me feel more comfortable in case something were to happen.
  • Good for both long and short distances.

CONS:

  • You need to pay attention and remember when it’s time to turn or cross the street. This can be hard to do when you’re in the zone!
  • If you aren’t as familiar with the area it can be easier to get lost or turned around.
  • If you decide to spontaneously shorten or extend your route it’s harder to calculate how many more/less miles you have to get to your finish spot. With an out-and-back this is much easier to know.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind when planning your running routes is VARIETY. Whether you choose an out-and-back or a looped route, if you are always doing the same thing you are bound to get sick of it. I always do a mix of both types of routes throughout the week and I try to discover new routes all the time to keep myself from getting burned out. Sometimes trying a new route can be the ticket to renewed motivation and love for running!
What is your favorite type of running route? Do you have any pros or cons that you would add to my lists?

Taper Time

It’s the end of another week of training and I only have three more weeks until I run my 7th marathon! 🙂 Yesterday I ran my final 20 miler and concluded my highest mileage week of this training period (40 miles). That means it is time to taper for the big day on September 17th!

In every training plan I have used there has been a taper period at the end. This usually involves a final 20 miler (the peak of your training) three weeks before race day, and then a gradual cut back of mileage and intensity over the next three weeks. This is to give your body a chance to rest and recover so that it’s strong and ready to run when race day comes.

Tapering sounds great – more rest, less running, right? Well, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes as your body heals from training there are little aches and pains that come out that can be worrisome, but I just try to remind myself it’s not a big deal and it’s just my body getting stronger and recovering. Also, when you are used to running so much it can be hard to cut back. For example, tomorrow morning I have only 2 miles on my schedule! That sounds crazy because I could do more than that, but I know I need to let my body go through the tapering process and not push too hard. This taper is actually coming at a good time, because I am about to start school again and will have a lot less time in the mornings.

Here is my basic taper plan:

Mileage: After running 40 miles this week, I will be running 23 next week, followed by 22 miles the week after that, and 10 miles the week of the marathon. My long runs will be 12 this Saturday, then 8 next Saturday.

Intensity: My training plan actually keeps the intensity of my runs the same. In past plans most of the speed work and tempo runs end during the taper. I will be continuing to do some speed work at the track and tempo runs, but the total mileage will be less than before. I think this will be good to help me remember what my race pace feels like.

Cross Training / Strength Training: I have already started cutting back on my spin classes because they were not benefiting my long runs anymore. I noticed that my legs were super heavy and tired when I was taking spin in the second half of my training plan. I think I will continue to hold off on spin until after the marathon, and if I do take it I will keep the intensity easier than before. I will continue to take Body Pump until the week of the marathon. I’m taking that week off because I know that it will not help me on race day in any way and may actually hurt my performance by stressing my body too much.

Nutrition: My goal for the next three weeks is to eat as cleanly as possible without eating too much while cutting back on running. In past training plans I have continued eating the same during the taper as I did during my high mileage weeks, because my body was so used to it and I thought I was hungry. This led to unwanted weight gain which made running on race day much more difficult. I need to make sure I’m not eating too much and eating as well as I can. I already eat well at home but we will be cutting back on going out to eat and DESSERTS especially! (We love dessert).

Hydration:  Water, water, water, especially the week of the marathon. I already drink tons of water so this isn’t a problem. I also plan to cut back on alcohol. I usually stop drinking the month before a marathon but it’s too late for that (haha). I had some wine tonight but I think I’m done until the night after the race. Then I may have to indulge in a little tequila (my favorite!)

Sleep: Just get more of it! With school and grad school starting up again this may be a challenge but we’re going to try for 8 hours a night (that’s hard to do!)

Here is my weekly run down:

  • Monday: 6 mile run (59:55 / 9:59 pace) + Body Pump (1 hour)
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 7 mile run (1:05:33 / 9:21 pace) + moving my friend into her new apartment (tough strength training!)
  • Thursday: 7 mile run (1:06:05 / 9:26 pace)
  • Friday: Body Pump (1 hour)
  • Saturday: 20 mile run (3:15:27 / 9:46 pace)
  • Sunday: Rest

Let the taper begin!

A Day In My Life… Long Run Saturday

I have been asked by many people what I do (and what I eat) before, during, and after my long runs. To answer those questions I decided to document my entire day from start to finish to show what my days look like when I run long. This was an especially important long run, because it was the peak of our training for the Air Force Marathon. We had 20 miles on the schedule, which was a big deal! I knew that after this long run was over we would begin tapering (cutting back) for our big race. I wanted to have a good final long run to build our confidence.

However, I was worried about this run because of the hurricane that was on its way to our area. Also, this was our third attempt at running 20 in this training period. I purposefully built three 20 milers into our schedule because I knew it would build our confidence more and I wanted to have options in case one or two of them didn’t go successfully. Attempt #1 was great, attempt #2 – not so much. I tried to mentally prepare myself all week to run such a great distance, and last night Kevin and I ate dinner early and were in bed by 9 p.m. I was hoping for the best!

The rest of this post will be very picture-heavy. The pictures tell the story of my day better than words 🙂

4:30 AM ~ The alarm went off and I took my medicine (Synthroid for my hypothyroidism). I have to get up so early because I need to wait 30 minutes to eat after taking my pill. If I got up any later my pre-run food wouldn’t have time to digest before I started running!

4:30 – 5:00 ~ I got dressed (I had the clothes laid out and ready to go), put on the oh-so important Body Glide, made and drank coffee.

5:00 – 6:00 ~ I ate my Honey Stinger Energy Bar (so good!) and then woke up Kevin and gave him his bar.

I also checked the weather to see the status of Hurricane Irene. I was anxious to get started. I wanted to outrun the storm!

We filled up our Camelbacks and we got our fuel ready and packed it all inside our packs. We packed 4 Gus (for Kevin), 3 packs of Honey Stinger Energy Gels (for me), and 2 Nuun hydration tablets.

After doing that we each took a bathroom break (no photos of that, lol), took a quick picture together and headed out!

6:00 – 9:30 ~ Running! So, this run didn’t start out very good for Kevin. He has had lingering knee issues since we trained for the Nashville marathon last spring. He has been resting more and trying to stretch, foam roll and ice it. Some days are better than others, but today was not good for him. Three miles in he was limping in pain so we made the decision that he should turn around and not risk injuring himself more. The plan was that he would go home then get the car and find me along the route we had planned. I was worried about being alone and so far out if it started storming, so it made me feel better knowing he was coming out to make sure I was okay.

So from mile 3 – 12 I was on my own on a VERY hilly route. It was extremely humid because of the storm that was coming. I was drenched in sweat and struggling to put one foot in front of the other at some points. I wanted to walk, but I kept telling myself to just push out one more mile. At mile 12 Kevin had found me and I stopped to walk for the first time. He had brought me a water bottle full of Nuun and it felt amazing to replace some electrolytes. He also brought the camera and decided to play paparazzi for the rest of the run 🙂

He went to visit with his family and then came out to find me when I was around mile 16. He drove up next to me and honked and I didn’t realize it was him at first, so I gave him the sneaky side glance! People always honk at me when I’m running. I don’t know why they do that!

He drove ahead a little bit and I kept running. By mile 17 I was feeling okay but my body was really starting to ache. I just kept telling myself to keep going, and I was visualizing myself running with an actual hurricane behind me that I was trying to outrun. It sounds silly but it actually worked!

Kevin tried to get all artistic with his photography.

These pictures are making me see exactly how I run. It seems like I land on my outer heel and then my foot rolls inwards as I push off the ground. Looks kinda weird. I think I need to work on that.

Adjusting my Camelbak. I think because it’s 2 and a half years old the straps have gotten looser and I occasionally have to pull it tight again.

Mile 19.5! I’m almost finished!

I even was able to sprint the last half mile, finishing it in 8:59!

Final time was 3:15:27, 9:46 average pace.

I was super happy because I planned my nutrition and hydration perfectly and had no stomach issues whatsoever. I ate my energy chews 5 at a time which equals 80 calories, at 0:55, 1:20, 1:45, 2:10, 2:35, and 3:00. I also drank my Nuun drink at mile 12 and that helped keep my energy levels stable. I am planning to stick to this same plan at my race in September.

9:30 – 10:30 ~ As soon as I got in the door I drank a coconut water.

I changed out of my soaking wet clothes and stretched for a little while (in a towel). When I get back from a long run I always feel the need to change out my clothes immediately!

And Kevin made me oatmeal while I was stretching 🙂 It was made the normal way, with a banana, blueberries, and almond butter and I relaxed on the couch while eating it.

10:30 – 11:30 ~ I took a long shower, changed into my recovery socks, did some laundry and drank more water.

11:30 – 2:00 ~ A wonderful, amazing NAP!

2:00 – 3:00 ~ I woke up starving! We hadn’t gone to the grocery store yet so I ate a yogurt then made a panini with random leftover veggies and roasted red pepper sauce that I made last week. It was really good!

3:00 – 5:00 ~ I relaxed on the couch watching episodes of Teen Mom (why is that show so addicting?). I got a little headache so I took some Tylenol and then got ready to go out to dinner with my man.

5:00 – 7:00 ~ Kevin and I braved the rain and went to dinner at Red Robin. I told Kevin I would take him out to eat anywhere he wanted tonight and that’s where he wanted to go! I got a delicious Southwestern salad with avocado, black beans, veggies, fried jalapenos (!), and other delicious things.

And of course the bottomless fries. Oooohh they were good!

Kevin was a happy guy!

I ate one too many bottomless fries, but running 20 miles makes me feel like a bottomless pit sometimes.

After dinner it was really starting to get bad outside, so we made a quick trip to Target to get some essentials before heading home.

We got bananas, coffee, frozen yogurt and an avocado. Clearly all important items!

7:00 – now! ~ When we got home I poured a glass of wine (only drank about 1/3 of it though – wasn’t feeling it).

And ate some of my frozen yogurt 🙂

Now I am listening to the storm outside and hoping not to lose power. I’m going to stretch some more in a little bit. I feel really tight in my hips and hamstrings. But overall I am SO happy with how today went. I can’t wait to race in Ohio next month and see what I can do!

Why I Love Daily Mile

If you love to run, cycle, swim, lift weights, or be active in some other way and you haven’t heard of Daily Mile yet, you need to get familiar ASAP!

Daily Mile is an awesome social networking site, sort of like Facebook for active people. It’s a place where you can share your workouts and training and meet other people who care about the same things that you do. You can become “friends” with others, send motivation to them and comment on their workouts, notes, and photos. It’s a great way to find active people in your area and follow people that are training for the same races that you are. It’s basically awesome!

One of my favorite parts of Daily Mile is the awesome statistics and graphs they create for you.

You can look at your training by days (above), weeks, or months (below).

You can look at your workouts in terms of distance, pace, or time (below).

Or you can look at your top fastest, farthest, most intense, and most talkative workouts.

It even tells you your lifetime stats – including how far you’ve run around the world, how many donuts you have burned, and how many TVs you have powered! Too cool!

When you share your daily workout people can comment on it and send you motivation.

Every day there is a new Daily Mission, which is a question or prompt that you can answer. It’s a great way to learn more about your Daily Mile buddies and share more about yourself.

There is a forum where you can ask and answer questions. Here is one of the questions I posted before and 11 people responded to it. It’s great to get support from other knowledgeable people!

You also get an awesome weekly email that recaps your training that week. It always makes me feel very accomplished and proud!

Other features include free challenges you can sign up for,

groups you can join,

and a route mapper that allows you to create your own routes and search for others that Daily Mile members have created.

So what are you waiting for? Get on Daily Mile and start sharing your hard work! And add me as a friend too 🙂

Shoe Inspection

Since I started taking running more seriously a couple years ago I have been very good at paying attention to the mileage on my shoes. I learned how important it is to not only wear shoes that fit properly and support your foot type and your running style, but also to replace shoes once they are past their prime.

I have high arches,

and I overpronate, meaning that when I run my feet roll inwards once they land on the ground.

[Source]

This means I need a supportive shoe that will support my arch and correct my overpronation. It’s important that the inner part of the shoe where my feet roll inwards is extra supportive. I found all this out with the help of the employees of local running stores that analyzed my running by watching me walk and run outside and on the treadmill. They told me that if I didn’t correct this by wearing proper footwear I would risk putting my body and spine out of alignment while I was running.

In addition to choosing the right shoes, it’s important to know when the shoes have been worn out to the point where they aren’t doing their job anymore to protect your body and your feet when you run. I have always kept track of how many miles are on my shoes and I knew from doing research that they need to be replaced between 300 – 500 miles. I usually went through one pair of shoes per marathon training cycle and had to replace them around the 400 mile mark. I knew it was time to get new ones when they started feeling less supportive, I was getting little aches and pains in my legs and feet, and running started feeling more difficult.

When I was training for the Country Music Marathon last spring I decided to get two pairs of shoes and wear them every other day. This would give each pair a chance to dry out and bounce back from my runs. This strategy has worked very well. I bought the pairs on March 22nd and five months later they both have over 300 miles on them.

I use sticky notes on my desktop to keep track of how many miles are on each pair of shoes and also when I ran in them last. Sometimes I forget which pair I wore on my last run so this helps me remember so I don’t wear the same pair twice in a row. Since they both have less than 400 miles on them, I was surprised when I started feeling the little aches and pains in my feet sooner than usual. Then I got the dreaded blood blister, which was another sign that maybe it was time to get a new pair. I ordered them and wore them this morning and was blown away by how much better they felt and how much my running improved. That may sound really obvious (duh, of course new shoes are going to feel much better!) but I have been wearing my old pairs since March and I had gotten used to how they felt. I didn’t realize how badly I needed them, especially because they still looked fine to me.

Which one is the new pair?

After I had this revelation Kevin showed me the bottoms of my shoes and how there was clearly spots that were worn away which is another sign that new shoes were needed now rather than later. Again, such an obvious thing I should have been looking for but I wasn’t! I can’t believe I had never looked at the bottoms of my shoes before [the black ones accompanied me on a muddy run on Saturday, can you tell?]

The new pair is in the middle. If you look closely you can clearly see how the pink and black shoe have been worn away, especially on the inner foot [on the right of each shoe], which makes sense because of my over pronation!

Above is a closer view of the old shoe [on the left] and the new shoe [on the right]. You can see that the imprinted lines are pretty much gone on the pink shoes. The inner heel of the old shoes was also worn down. Maybe I am heel striking as well instead of landing flat? I will have to keep an eye on that, because that can lead to injury.

Then I got curious about the insoles of my shoes, so I took them out and inspected them.

They have definitely been imprinted with the shape of my high arched feet, but what was really interesting was what I saw when I compared the old insoles to my new ones. [Old shoe is on the left, new shoe is on the right].

Left foot

Looking at the insoles side by side it was obvious to see the results of my overpronation. The constant pressure from the inward rolling of the foot has left a darkened and worn down mark on the inner foot. What I thought was really interesting was that my right foot had a pronounced spot by my big toe that was especially dark and worn away. This is the same exact spot where my blood blister developed! I am thinking maybe I overpronate more with my right foot, because there is definitely a difference between my left and right insoles.

Right foot

Very interesting! I don’t know why I didn’t inspect my shoes sooner. I learned a lot about how my running affects my shoes, and also how my shoes affect my running!

Have you inspected your shoes lately? What did you discover?

A Great Week of Training

This was a great week of training! I actually felt good and strong on all my runs, and most importantly our long run went VERY well for the first time in a while! I am loving that the mornings are cooler and I can’t wait until fall weather is here for good.

I was pretty worried about our 18 miler we had on Saturday. Our long runs haven’t been great lately and we haven’t been feeling our best. I was determined to make this run better than the last few have been. I told myself I’d push through and try not to take any walking breaks. My reasoning behind this decision was that I need to run 9:00 – 9:09 minute miles during the marathon and can’t really afford much walking time to meet my goal of running it in under 4 hours. The summer heat had me walking too often and I knew that if I continued to do that I wouldn’t be prepared to run straight through on race day. I was also worried about Kevin, because he has been having some knee and motivation issues lately. Finally, we were going to be in Pennsylvania again this weekend and I was worried about that, after the horrible hills I experienced two weeks ago!

So as you can see, I was worried about a lot of things. But I had no reason to be, because this run was (almost) perfect! We decided to run on the Schuylkill River Trail, which is a very popular running/walking/biking trail in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It’s almost 130 miles in length, but we ran on the section as seen below, from the Betzwood Trailhead to just before Spring Mill Trailhead.

This was the second time we had run on this trail, and the first time we only ran 3 miles out and back. I was excited because I had looked up the elevation beforehand and it was as flat as it gets in Pennsylvania. I was even more excited when I woke up and realized it was nice and cool outside, and I actually felt a little cold in my shorts and tank top (no complaints though!) We drove about 20 minutes to the trailhead and went on our way.

We both felt great all the way out and turned around after 9 miles. We have been getting used to stopping at halfway and taking a little break, but that day we decided not to and just push through instead. I knew I didn’t physically need a break, it was just my brain telling me to take one. I pushed on and eventually got over the mental road block and felt good again… until mile 14 when we both desperately needed a bathroom STAT. If you are a runner you know that sometimes these tummy issues can come on pretty strong and at bad times. We stopped on the trail right alongside the town of Norristown where we thought there would be a bathroom somewhere, but we couldn’t find one 😦 It was tough to keep going after that. Even though it was only 4 miles it felt like an eternity, but we somehow finished the run without walking again. We even ran our last mile in under 9 minutes and it was our fastest mile!

Despite needing a bathroom, it was a great run and we both felt good everywhere else besides our stomachs. We plan to keep a better handle on our nutrition until the marathon which should help with that. We had kind of a crazy week and had to grab and go some of our meals (even though we had meal planned for the week- things happen sometimes!) and I know that was what went wrong. Most importantly, Kevin and I both kept a positive attitude throughout the run and I tried to visualize myself being successful in the actual marathon. This week made me feel so much more confident and ready to race!

Weekly Run Down –

  • Monday: 7 mile run (1:05:12 / 9:18 pace) + Body Pump (1 hour)
  • Tuesday: 7 mile tempo run- 1 mile warm up, 5 miles @ 7:52 average pace, 1 mile cool down (Splits were 7:56, 7:56, 7:54, 7:54, 7:44)
  • Wednesday: Body Pump (1 hour)
  • Thursday: 6 mile run (56:17 / 9:22 pace)
  • Friday: Body Pump (1 hour)
  • Saturday: 18 mile run (1:48:52 / 9:22 pace)
  • Sunday: Rest
I ran 38 miles this week, which is actually my highest mileage week since April. I also decided to back off on spin class, because I really wanted my legs to be fresh for my 18 miler and spinning tends to kill them. Only one more week of full-blown training and I should run 40 – 42 miles depending on how I feel. We have 20 miles on Saturday and then the taper begins. I can’t believe it!

Blood Blister Surgery

WARNING: This post contains some gross/graphic images. Read at your own risk if you are squeamish or don’t like looking at feet 🙂

When I started this blog my goal was to document the good, the bad, and the ugly of my running adventures. Well, this post will be about one of the ugly aspects: blisters. We’ve all had experiences with blisters of some kind, whether you are a runner or not. The bottom line is they are painful and annoying, and I never quite know what to do about them.

Throughout my years of running I still make many mistakes and I am constantly learning how to improve. One of the recent lessons I have learned relates to something many runners develop: calluses on the feet. I take good care of my feet and use my Ped Egg regularly to shave down the hard calluses that develop on my inner foot, next to my big toes and the bones below the big toes. I think this is a result of my over-pronation (where my feet roll inwards when I run). Anyway, I had them under control after asking a podiatrist if it’s safe to shave down calluses if you are a runner. He said that it’s fine as long as you don’t shave them down TOO much. Well, I guess last time I did it I shaved down the one next to my right big toe too much, because after running on it for a couple days it developed into a huge and painful blood blister.

Aside from being unattractive and black, this blister hurt and was starting to affect my running. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I had heard that it’s bad to pop blisters because it could lead to infection, but I really didn’t want to just leave it there throbbing. Kevin actually works in a podiatrist’s office doing medical billing, so he asked the doctors what I should do about it (yeah for free medical advice!) They told him that he would need to perform surgery on it to release what was inside and let it heal. They sent him home with a lot of supplies and clear instructions on what to do.

I was really worried about this ‘surgery’, not because I was scared of the pain (I handle pain pretty well) but because I get grossed out very easily and thinking about it made me feel sick to my stomach. But he came home from work and informed me that it was time, and of course I had to document it for the blog 🙂

Here we go!

Supplies included gauze pads, gauze wraps, rubber gloves, alcohol, safety pin, and ointment.

Kevin’s ready to do surgery!

The blood blister in it’s glory (p.s. I know I need to re-paint my toenails!)

Step one: Clean area with alcohol.

Step two: Use a (sanitized!) safety pin to poke a hole in the blister that is big enough to let the liquid out. It took Kevin two tries to get a big enough hole. The first try I didn’t feel, but the second hurt BAD!

Step three: Drain out liquid and squeeze if you have to.

Step four: Hold a gauze pad against the area to soak up any excess liquid.

Step five: Look at your deflated blister and get grossed out.

Step six: Clean out the area again with alcohol (ouch).

Step seven: Apply ointment to the area.

Step eight: Cover with a band-aid or two.

All done!

Who knew a little thing could hurt so bad?

The next day I didn’t run and I took off the bandaids to give it some air. It seemed fine, but today I noticed there seems to be another little blister on top of where the old one was. It’s clear and not painful like the last one, but I think there’s more surgery in my future 😦

What a way to start the morning! If you read this far, congrats! I’m impressed. As runners, we have to deal with stuff like this sometimes. It’s just a fact of life! I’m sure I will have more posts about the ‘ugly side’ of running in the future.

Hope everyone has a fantastic Thursday!