The Run Happy Formula

With my yogic river guide out of town (no Saturday yoga for me), I took the opportunity to hit the open road after a month of being sidelined by too much stress and a nagging quadracept injury. Luckily for me, the formula for a happy run was in place.

Here are the components, for which (even hours later) I find myself grateful:

1. Running in the cold (this morning’s thermometer hovered around 37 degrees) allows the lungs to fill with crisp fresh air. To say I felt more alive than I have since March isn’t dramatics. It’s the truth.

2. The right gear is essential for cold-weather running, because freezing is never any fun. I left the house wearing my thick, lined running pants, a long-sleeve shirt and jacket, and a headband to cover and protect my ears from the wind.

3. Going slowly, though not walking, there is no hurry and no pressure. As I amp up the winter running, I’m sure I’ll hop back over to the Galloway method, but my favorite way to run is at an easy pace, for as long as I like. Today’s four miles felt right; authentic, focused, strong.

3. Wearing ear pods is controversial. Galloway doesn’t allow it. People say it is dangerous. But the beauty of having music in your ears is that you not only hear, but feel. Choosing the iPod shuffle-option is like an extra step toward total surrender. The last song as I rounded home was James Blunt’s, Best Laid Plans. The man is a poet, and his words made my heart grow wider.

4. A familiar loop doesn’t hurt when you’re busy following your nose. There’s no chance in getting lost and you’re close enough to home if you need to call it quits (earlier than anticipated).

5. A good run always prompts thoughts of the next race. Maybe it’s the endorphins at work, but I’m thinking that the timing is right to train for March’s Tobacco Road Marathon (or at least the half).

A happy run is the foundation for my happy life.

What’s your formula for a happy run?

M.

P.S. I questioned whether to publish this ‘happy post” as it’s a disappointing time for many running friends unable to race New York; monumentally more difficult for the people trying to recover from Sandy’s destruction. New York and it’s people have lived in my heart since I left almost twelve years ago. I wish I was closer to physically help …

Stress and Injury

I wrote this a week ago and sent it out for submission. Having not heard back I’m chalking it up to Written Rejection and am moving on, choosing to post it here instead.

I should be heading out for six miles tomorrow morning according to my marathon training plan. But since writing this piece, I’ve pinched a nerve in my left scapula, which kept me from Saturday yoga, woke this morning with a pulled muscle in my neck and have a faint, but still there, soreness in my quad.

I am, in physical terms, a big old mess!

Maybe it’s time to hang up the hopes for a January marathon. Maybe running to meet a time and distance goals should not be my focus right now. Maybe at this phase of my life I should run for pleasure and freedom and stress relief.

No decisions must be made today.

Acknowledging the thoughts……

XOM

Stress and Injury

Being plagued by a tremendous amount of stress recently I woke up ready to go for a run, but had momentarily forgotten about the right quadracept injury that had forced me to put my marathon training on hold. If that wasn’t irritating enough, as I stepped down from my bed I felt a muscular pull up the backside of my right calf; curious as I haven’t done any running or worn new and different shoes since I’d allowed myself this little break to heal from the nagging pain in my thigh.

As I hobbled down the stairs I wondered if the mental stress I’ve been under lately is causing my body to react in a way that is purely physical; both slowing me down and creating pains in places where there shouldn’t be any. It isn’t just common sense that stress can cause illness and injury, in April 2012 a Scientific study at Carnegie Mellon University found proof that mental stress can cause harm on a cellular level; real and actual inflammation can (and does) form in the face of stress.

Two weeks ago I was on a running/yogic/healthy lifestyle roll. Marathon training was in its first week, my consistency in yoga attendance was helping me gain strength and focus, and my food struggles seemed a thing of the past (quitting sugar helped). I was pushing my limits much as I had a year ago at this time, but my circumstances are currently quite different.

Forget that my divorce mediation is nearing closer by the day, the fact that my mother is a week out from surgery from a skin cancer or that my daughters have been acting out to the point that I’ve called a child psychologist for help. Forget that I’m still living with my soon to be ex, that as a stay at home mom I am at the mercy of my husband’s financial choices or that I haven’t worked in six years, since before my twins were born. I have no idea how I’ll support myself after the divorce.

On Tuesday, when a life threatening illness of a loved one rang in my phone, it dawned on me the enormous amounts of life stressers that have plagued what I am coming closer to christening, “Terrible 2012.”

I have a list of things I want to do. I want to run my second marathon in Miami (in January). I want to find meaningful work that will monetarily add to the lives of myself and my children. I want to eat right and attend yoga and fit in my closet full of clothes all presently too tight. I want to feel happy about the chores that keep my house running. I want my family to be healthy. I want to spend time with friends and hear about the wonderful things happening in their lives. I want. I want. I want.

But now may not be the time for the things that I want.

Now might be the time to step back and allow the universe to deliver to me what it thinks I need.

Am I ready to hang up the dream of Miami? Not yet.

Am I going to beat myself up for eating more than my share of the pumpkin pie? Nope.

Will I attend yoga tomorrow morning as I have been for the past few weeks? Yes, because I know it is good for me (my intention, however, will be to remain mindful and without pressure to perform).

What I am not going to do is allow the stress to creep up and cause me pain and frustration and worry.

Sometimes a person needs to be able to choose between what they need and what they want on a minute by minute basis. Knowing when not to do the thing(s) that they want becomes the only decision; the grown up decision to say, “I can’t right now,” knowing that they’ve saved themselves from a stressed out illness or unfortunate injury.

Have you ever pushed through stress and injury for a race? How did you do?

XOM

It’s not funny how badly I want another one of these and the experience to go along with it.

The Modified Marathon Plan

Monday is the big kickoff to my 18 weeks of marathon training. Instead of doing too much running this week, I am instead mentally preparing for what is to come and also giving myself a tiny break before the big works begins.

I have modified Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 to suit my needs.

Here we go…

Week Mon. Tues. Wed. Thur. Fri. Sat. Sun.
1 Rest 6 Rest 5 Rest yoga 8
2 Rest 6 Rest 5 Rest yoga 9
3 Rest 6 Rest 6 Rest yoga 6
4 Rest 6 Rest 6 Rest yoga 11
5 Rest 6 Rest 6 Rest yoga 12
6 Rest 6 Rest 6 Rest yoga 9
7 Rest 8 Rest 7 Rest ? half
8 Rest 6 Rest 9 Rest yoga 15
9 Rest 6 Rest 9 Rest yoga 13
10 Rest 8 Rest Thanks! 6-8 Rest 17
11 Rest 9 Rest 9 Rest Rest 18
12 Rest 9 Rest 9 Rest Rest 13
13 Rest 5 5 5 Rest Rest 19
14 Rest 5 8 5 Rest Rest 12
15 Rest 8 Rest 7 Rest Rest 20
16 Rest 7 Rest 7 Rest Rest 12
17 Rest 5 Rest 6 Rest yoga 8
18 Rest Rest 5 Rest Rest 2 RACE!

After filling out the tables on my plan I am surprised at the massive mileage I will be expected to run over the course of the next eighteen weeks (even though I’ve done it before).

Of course, I will constantly be checking in, giving myself breaks when needed and/or modifying based on schedules and sick kids and all the other life issues that infringe on my running time.

Note that I have accounted for  the City of Oaks Half marathon (week seven), Thanksgiving (week 10) and also for the final weeks of training when I have a feeling I will want to run shorter mid-week distances more often (weeks 13 and 14 for sure, 11 and 12 are tentative).

Are you in training? What does your plan look like?

Anyone running Miami and feel like being a virtual buddy? 

XOM

My bib from marathon #1. Can’t wait for Miami’s.

On the Train Again

The whole purpose of beginning this blog was to document my marathon training while living this crazy place called Mommyland.

It’s with relief that I am now coming full circle as training for race number two officially begins on September 24th.

In the space between the last marathon and now I have worked and re-worked the plan making educated and experience based substantive decisions, which I will do my best to follow.

1. I will again be following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 schedule, but instead of three-day mid-week runs, I will be combining the mileage to run only two. This will mean that those mid-week runs will be longer, but I’ll have more days in between to rest and recover. I am hoping that exhaustion from too many successive runs in a row (which was an issue last time) will be resolved with this plan. I will also use the Galloway system of strategized walking, as I do believe it works and will help me go farther with more control.

2. I’ve agreed to help out my most favorite yoga instructor on Saturday mornings by checking in her students in return for a free pass to her phenomenal class. Last marathoning go around I was so consumed by the run that I neglected my yoga, neglected a huge piece of what grounds me to my life. Agreeing to be at the studio every Saturday will ensure that my yoga practice is built into the schedule. It will also give me an opportunity to re-build the dusty resume and re-establish the fact that I am consistent and committed and pretty competent at tasks in which I’m given.

3. Long runs, then, will have to happen on Sundays or Mondays (last year I ran long on Saturdays). The most gratifying runs are the long ones, for me. I am looking forward to those hours and hours on the road, out there on my own two feet, floating alone inside my own busy brain.

4. I’ve been off of sugar for twelve whole days, off of Diet Coke a week longer, and I’ve been much more careful about the overall contents of things like cereal and yogurt and so-called healthy snack bars and drink supplements. An ongoing process, I am sure there will be much more written about my emotional connectedness to food as it’s the one part that I still haven’t fully figured out. I should mention another change, too. I will NOT be getting on the scale anytime in the near future. More about that to come.

And so I am ready to go.

The last factor (of which I have no control) is with mother nature.

Yes there will be days in the next months that I will have no choice but run in the drizzle and/or rain and/or the early morning freezing cold. I can handle all that. It’s part of the challenge.

This heat, though, needs to go.

September marks a new beginning for me in so many ways and the muggy humid air has gotten very very old.

What races are you running? What will your training plan look like?

XOM

ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. Joanna, from Poppy’s Style and I are running it! Anyone else want to come to the party?

The Hansons’ MarathonTraining Plan

Running is important to me, keeps me sane and levels my pre-diabetic blood sugar.

I am in no way a professional, rather a mere mama who likes to run, likes to learn, appreciates a good challenge and crossed the finish line at her first marathon (less than six months ago) feeling both elated and defeated simultaneously.

Having signed up for my next marathon, Miami 2013 ( Jan. 27), I continue to run and learn and hope that I can strategize differently (better) for a faster time and more consistent race (less tired/more energy at the twenty-mile marker).

My training for Tobacco Road was strictly running, little cross training, following the Novice 2 plan by Hal Higdon. The Higdon plan is pretty straightforward consisting of a four-day run week with the long run exertion at an easy comfortable pace. Walk breaks are acceptable, especially through water stations, though I worked hard to run without them.

In the months between my two races, there has been the time and opportunity to test out different theories, the latest being the Galloway method using the run/walk/run ratio.

I like Galloway. I like running with my 10:30 pace group (although our walk/run speed is closer to 12:30).

But my problem with the plan that has nothing to do with running and everything to do with what goes on in my head.

For starters, none of the Olympic marathoners I watched this summer stopped to walk. If they didn’t stop to walk then running an entire 26.2 can be done. So shouldn’t we try?

Unfortunately, I am not an Olympian and my ability to keep a pace that results in a happy finish time requires walking. Strategizing walk breaks, then, would be a good way to go for the next race. If I could just get my head to accept it’s okay.

Having just received the current Runner’s World magazine in my mailbox, I came across an article by Alex Hutchinson about the Hansons; brothers who run marathons and train Olympic runners.

Their philosophy is in, “cumulative fatigue,” teaching your body to run fast on tired legs and “push recovery,” meaning that if your hard runs are easy, then your preceding runs were not hard enough.”

This makes sense, but how can the average mama bear use this strategy in her isolated/no trainer on the payroll training?

By putting mileage on your legs and going out with a little bit of fatigue, you can prepare your body for going farther distances. This makes sense to me.

Push Recovery doesn’t seem as clear.

The Hansons’ plan calls for a “nine-day hard-easy-easy cycle.” What does that mean? Does that suggest you run for a total of nine days and rest for the next two? That your runs should be hard, then easy, then easy, repeated for a total of nine days?

So here I am, constantly learning and testing the strategies with the hope that I finish Miami strong and happy with my performance. Not a professional in any way, but a lover of the game completely!

Are you in training? What does your training plan look like? Do you know anything about the Hansons’ plan? Share!

I took Grace for a run with me this summer. I tried to teach her the run/walk method in the hope we would go a couple of miles. She was having none of it and ran full force until she was too tired (complaining of hurt feet) and wanted to go home. There’s time, and I see track and field in this kid’s future!

Galloway Run Two

Adrenaline is coursing after a four mile run with the Galloway Group.

Today we ran one mile before an 80-85% push toward another mile marker.

I clocked my time at @9:15, slightly faster than I’d expected, probably because the last half mile was down hill.

I’m fairly certain that the 10.5 minute per mile group is the right one for me and I felt good (even up hill) with the group.

When I returned home the girls were just sitting down for breakfast with their dad.

I joined them and though probably should have refueled with a piece of Ezekiel bread and peanut butter, couldn’t resist the strawberry pancakes that Brian had already plated. Unfortunately, my fork couldn’t resist the sugar-coated lemon cake under cover in the center of the table, either. It, too, was begging to be eaten.

By the way, as I waited for the run to begin I spoke with two of the ladies from my group; Maria (the pace leader) and Kellie (e?) her marathoning partner. When Maria saw my name tag she turned to me and said, “Are you the blogger?”

“Yes, yes I am!”

She remembered my name from the post I passed on to the WannaBeasts group through facebook .

Recognition for the blog and a fantastic four mile run all before 8:30 a.m.?

Perfect start to this perfect day!

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Right?!

Run, Walk, Run, Plank, Eat, Nap

The Jeff Galloway program follows the philosophy that strategic walk breaks can help your overall time, lessen fatigue, and help you run farther with very little to no injury. I signed up a few weeks ago even though I was unsure about the walking bit. Do real athletes walk? Apparently, many of them do.

My plan this morning was to run to Raleigh Running Outfitters; a 2.6 mile jaunt from home. The first Galloway Group run would occur there at seven a.m. and we were advised to arrive early around 6:45 to figure out the best pace groups to join.

I had read the program book, which stipulates the pace guidelines. Take your magic mile (80% of your full capacity for one mile) and multiply it by 1.3 for marathon training, 1.2 for a half. Once the calculation is done roughly two minutes are tacked on for walking breaks and another minute for every five degrees above sixty.
It was still a bit confusing to me, so I spoke with some of the Galloway Oldies and we determined that the 10.5 group might be a good fit. I can always move up or down in the weeks to come.

There were four hundred people gathered together and waiting to go. Once announcements were made we were off, up Six Forks and down something known as the Greenway. I thought I knew all of North Raleigh as I’d trained hard on these roads, but the Greenway, hidden behind an unfamiliar neighborhood, was a four person wide path with sheltering trees and running brooks. I partnered up with Carol (a young and friendly first year Kindergarten teacher) and we ran behind Kelly (one of the pace group leaders) and Katie-Rose who had just signed up for her first marathon (the Marine Corps in the Fall).

I felt like I was amongst my people. My tribe. Kindred spirits who hurled words of encouragement toward other runners at turnarounds and upon passing by.

We ran an easy three miles with a three to one ratio; run three minutes, walk one, run another three, and so on.

The pace seemed good (maybe a touch fast), but since I’d been up since 3:30 with two sick kids I figured I’d cut myself some slack. Grace fell prey to the virus exactly 2.5 days after her sister. As predicted and right on schedule.

There was a lot of talking going on during the run, which I’m not used to. Running with talking takes up more energy than running with books. Even saucy books like 50 Shades.

Speaking of 50 Shades, after the group was dismissed I high tailed it home listening to the second of the series, while trying to adhere to the three to one ratio. My Garmin had died, so I chose to watch the clock on my phone to stay close to the time allowances despite not knowing my accurate pace.

Eight miles completed before 8:30 and on very little sleep.

Upon my return I rolled out my sore gluteals and calves (much to Sophie’s delight) and completed two of my three planks for the day.

Angela a.k.a. Happy Fit Mama and I had been tweeting recently about the art of planking. I was curious to know the best way to get the most bang for your planking buck and it seemed that I needed to get lower. Plank position with flat arms and hands has been added to the newest daily challenges. My squishy abdominals (and back and sides) are thanking me already.

My post run fuel was decided for me as Brian was in the process of working on a beautiful breakfast when I appeared in the kitchen; eggs, chopped potatoes, ham and cilantro wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. I added a little avocado and some tomatoes before creating the “lunch” in the My Fitness Pal application on my phone.

I showered and napped, but couldn’t coax the girlies down to slumber. Success in dreamland did eventually arrive, but the nearby sounds of reading and playing didn’t allow me complete rest I needed and I woke after an hour to a drum-like banging on the closet doors (stinkin kids).

I roused and re-entered Mommyland looking forward to the night.

Sleep will come and it will be sweet. Quiet, long and sweet…….

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Run.
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Walk.
Plank
Plank.
eat
Eat.
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Nap.

Marathoning – What Happens When It’s Over

When planning for a marathon there is much online content discussing the steps that can be taken to guide a runner to a successful finish; schedules, gear, injury prevention, pacing, speed work, comparable celebrity finish times. You name it you can find it!

In my experience post race, I was bemused to find that there was not the same abundance of advice regarding recovery. Once I’d heard my name come through that loud-speaker, I was essentially on my own.

It has been fifteen days since I ran my heart out meeting a lifetime personal goal. In retrospect, my physical training was successful. I am still proud of my accomplishment and less bothered by the fact that my time wasn’t within the range I’d had hoped for. I loved every minute, even the painful ones and the ones where I was consumed with doubt.

The mental challenge of going from full-blown training to restful observance of it is a tremendous transition. Recovery days one through four were brutal.

The old habits of emotional eating and anxiety appeared with vigor; they hadn’t been beat in training, only subdued. The fact that they were actually lying dormant was a blow.

On day five I laced up my brand new Newton’s, but the run was slow and hard. I clocked thirteen minutes per mile for a whopping 1.75 before calling it quits.

Figuring it was too soon to get back out there I tried not to be bothered, but my type A was showing and I was really beating myself up about it.

I tried again days later and ran a decent five, but the love wasn’t there. I was glad when I got home. I prayed that this was temporary.

By now I had searched and searched online for information to make sense of what I was experiencing and in my frustration turned to my friends in Internetland who were the first to show me some light.

After tweeting about my lackluster runs, one twitterer mentioned that she’d heard it took one day for every mile to be fully physically recovered. Easy math I could do; one month to give myself some leeway.

A commenter on my blog told me of her own depression that surfaced after her second marathon. It became so bad that she opted for antidepressants to get her through. This kind of honesty is what I wasn’t finding in my search. I was grateful for hers.

And then my sister arrived into town last Monday and I saw my nephew (whom I had helped raise from the time he was one until three), but had not had much communication with in the most recent years. Standing in front of me now was a teenage boy, all five feet nine inches of him. I swung my arms around his neck and the tears started to flow.

When I got home that night they continued.

I called my older sister and kept crying.

A full-blown panic attack followed. I’d never actually had one before, so I was surprised by its force. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had to take a Clonapin to settle down. It didn’t work, so I took another.

I fell asleep and woke the next morning feeling groggy, but better.

As if the fog had lifted, I was able to think with a clear mind and it became obvious that the pressure I was putting on myself to be as strong and powerful as I’d been before the marathon was suddenly gone; like all that training had never happened.

Seeing my nephew was the tip of the emotional iceberg in terms of the way I was managing. I needed a good cry. It needed to come out and I began to feel as if real recovery was finally going to begin.

So does it make sense then that I’d want to go through this again?

Yes, of course!

stubbornness and determination are a part of my gene pool and one must never stop learning in this life.

The next step is to move out of my comfort zone both physically and mentally.

With running taking a short hiatus from my schedule I’ve recently headed back to yoga.

Last week while standing in tree pose with my branches spread wide I straightened my neck to peer toward the sky and thanked God. The second tree pose on the opposite leg allowed me the opportunity to thank Him again.

Yesterday, after rolling onto my right side at the end of savasana I realized I was facing the sun. With hands folded at my third eye and with my other two tightly closed I could feel the warmth from the light. This time I thanked the Universe.

The overall experience of my marathon has not yet finished, though the race itself has.

Today I feel renewed, rested and peaceful,though a bit less physically strong and not quite ready to resume any significant running.

Most importantly I am grateful.

Grateful for the sum of the experience.

My branches extended out more, but you get the idea.
Savasana. Adorable yoga drawing from yoga.prevention.com @ iyogalife slideshow.

Taper Brain

I have taper brain. I’m scattered, anxious, nervous, tired, hungry and unable to make too many decisions.

It would be wonderful to be able to write something substantial describing the past few days, but it’s too much of a challenge.

All I want to do is run. I dreamed of the race last night.

It was sunny with a sideways drizzle and I realized I needed the long running pants I tried at Lululemon on Thursday. I didn’t buy them, because of taper brain; the making decisions part. I’m going back today to complete the arsenal of race day gear.

It’s early now, but I think it best to dress and go.

Eight miles are on the agenda for this Saturday before the Expo.

The kids will be with Peach today. The husband and I have a date.

I hope we don’t kill each other. The last time we tried to enjoy each other’s company ended in a yelling match. He thinks I love the marathon more than him. I tried to explain taper brain, but it’s hard for people to understand who haven’t experienced it. It’s hard for me to explain and I’m going through it.

Nine days to go.

I can’t think in a straight line, but one thing is clear. I haven’t been this excited for anything in a long long time!

Twelve

Wonderful Wednesday began with a glass of lemon water while listening to Pete’s Sumatra brewing in the machine. I’d forgotten that I’d planned to drink a smoothie for breakfast, so I measured out exactly one cup of Special K and another cup of milk (skim, of course).

After a disastrous attempt to get my girls to match their skirts to their shirts to their socks, I gave up and they got in the car looking like red-eyed rag-a–muffins. I dropped them off and headed home for a fairly quick three-mile run.

Much like my girls and their pre-school fashion drama, I’ve been kvetching a little about my own race day outfit. The CW-X pants are out, my beloved Dash tights have gotten a little too roomy in the legs and I must resist the urge to wear shorts with my “how I love thee” compression socks. The socks would be wonderful, but shorts would leave me with the seriously chafed thighs; a horrendous and rashy mess. I tried my Lululemon Inspire crops today, but they slide down too much. I may prefer a low waisted jean, but when it comes to my running pants the higher the better!

This weekend I have scheduled a call with my first marathoning hero and second Scibelli sister, Sandra. We are going to go over the list of things I need to take on race day and I’ve written out my array of questions, for which I need some help to answer.

For example, there are different theories about how one should pace their race. Some people feel you start slowly no matter what and speed up when the mileage gets higher. I tried this in training, but found that I was so tired later my overall speed was really terrible.

I also attempted a long run where I did a form of speed work; would run comfortably for a bit and then speed up for a certain distance before slowing down again. This seemed to leave me feeling pretty good and I was happy with my time, but it may not be the best strategy.

With twelve days to go I don’t have much more to do.

It’s a nice feeling to just have to focus on the day-to-day tasks, relax a bit, sleep more, and stay committed to eating clean.

Now I know why so many people told me to enjoy the taper. It’s really quite nice.