Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An eating experiment

At the end of December and beginning of January it seemed like a number of bloggers were tracking food or doing some type of cleanse.  I liked reading their posts about what they learned and figured it might be a good experiment for me to undertake.  I wasn’t up for a cleanse, but I was curious about how I was doing when it came to my diet.  So, for the last 10 days I tracked all of my food on Livestrong’s MyPlate.  I assumed that I was probably doing fine calorie-wise, since my weight tends to fluctuate in a relatively narrow range, but I was guessing that I’d probably find out that my diet was too carb heavy.
I discovered that I am actually consuming enough protein most days (at least according to the daily recommendations listed on MyPlate) and that my overall daily calorie intake is more or less in line with where it should be.  I could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables, but I knew that.  I know that writing my meals down actually inspired me to be a bit more creative at dinner time and not get lazy and just heat up a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.  So now I just need to carry that motivation forward.
I think the most interesting thing that I noticed by writing down what I was eating (and when I was eating it) was that I am usually so hungry by the time that I get home from work (in the 6:00-6:30 range) that I end up snacking while I am making dinner.  While I almost always eat a morning snack, I haven’t been eating an afternoon snack.  I’m not sure why I’ve been in this routine, but seeing it written down made me realize that I am going too long in the afternoon without food.  I usually eat breakfast around 8:00, a morning snack sometime around 11:00 and lunch at 1:00.  But then I was going from 1:00 to 6:30-7:00 without anything.  After noticing this pattern, I started implementing an afternoon snack and no longer come home with a growling stomach!  I’m sure it’s healthier to space it out like this (and prevents energy highs and lows) and then I don’t end up filling up on snacks before I finish making my dinner.
So now that I’m snacking more at work, I need to make a better effort to diversify my snack selection.  I have a snack drawer at work but it’s heavy on granola bars and Clif bars.  While these are good in moderation, ideally I’d like to add some less processed items to the mix.  Obviously what’s stored there has to be non-perishable so I went to Trader Joe’s last week and picked out an assortment of nuts and dried fruits.  I think my goal is going to be to attempt to pack one perishable snack like fruit, carrots and hummus, or Greek yogurt and rely on the snack drawer for the other.  I already bring my lunch most days so it won’t be that much extra effort to grab something for a snack too.  But now I need your help.  What are your go to snacks? 
Tracking food is definitely not something I would do on a regular basis, but it was helpful for a brief period. In just 10 days I learned a lot about my eating patterns and how I can diversify/improve my general diet.  I could see myself tracking another week when I am marathon training, to make sure that I am actually eating enough to offset the huge calorie burn. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Four

1. I was doing really well with the run break until this week.  I took most of the first week off and then last week (week two) I enjoyed starting swimming again and didn't mind pool running instead of land running.  I certainly thought about running, but didn't feel any particular NEED to go running.  But this week things changed.  I have felt like I've had the worst taper brain ever.  I've been cranky and I've had lots of weird aches and pains pop up.  I also started counting down the days until Monday when I will run again.  I clearly could go out and run today or this weekend, but I'm determined to make it through the 21 days run-free.  I have no idea if these last few days will make any difference, but it's a challenge and I'm going to make it to the end.

2. Yesterday I didn't sleep well and just couldn't get myself out of bed to go to the pool before work.  So I ended up swimming last night.  I can't even remember when the last time was that I worked out in the evening.  It was fine (and the pool wasn't as crowded as I feared it might be), but on the drive home all I could think about was having a giant bowl of cereal for dinner.  The only other thing that seemed even mildly appealing was a bagel with peanut butter.  That's right, apparently my body is so conditioned to exercising in the morning that all I want to eat after a workout is breakfast foods.

3. Last summer I really enjoyed swimming again, but still managed to abandon it during marathon training in the fall.  I didn't swim once between Labor Day and mid-December.  I can't let that happen again this spring once I get back into heavy run training.  Not only do I have a relay to get ready for, but I also hope to do some other open water races this summer. And I really do like it, once I get myself back in the water on a semi-regular basis.  So if I start talking about how I just can't seem to find the time or motivation to go swim or that I haven't been to the pool in over a week, please yell at me.

4. Every time it rains I remember that I need to find a good lightweight, breathable running rain jacket.  The one that I have was advertised as a running jacket but is not breathable. Given how much it makes me sweat, I think I actually stay drier running the rain without it.  I'll probably read a ton of reviews and try a bunch on, but if you have one that you love, please let me know!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. If for some reason it wasn't clear from my race reports, I would highly recommend everyone do the Goofy Challenge.  Disney runs an extremely organized race and the on course entertainment was second to none. I can't imagine doing it as a race though, I definitely think it is far better as a running experience.  That being said, I don't see myself signing up for any more Disney races in the future or heading back there year after year (from the number of people I saw in race shirts from previous years, the Disney races have a loyal following).  So far I've avoided repeating marathons because I feel like if I'm going to run that far I'd like to have some different scenery. I can only imagine that the experience at Disney would be similar year after year.  And since I wouldn't be trying to improve on a time, I don't know that I want to repeat that (somewhat pricey) experience.

2. Right now I am just about halfway through my self imposed run break.  After jumping straight into Goofy training after the Philly marathon, I knew that I needed to give my legs some time off.  I actually felt surprisingly good in the few days after Goofy, but I'm sticking with the plan because I know it's the smart thing to do.  I'm already looking forward to getting back to running, so that can only be a good thing.  In the meantime I'll be pool running, elliptical-ing and doing lots of laps to get myself ready for a fast swim leg at Kinetic.

3. I realized last night that with the addition of the Newtons to the rotation, I will have a lot of shoes to choose from when I go back to running.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Just a few more race photos from Goofy to show that it wasn't all photo stops and roller coasters, I did do some running!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon Race Report

The plans for this race started over two years ago at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.  My friend Katherine came up to run and we decided post-race that our next marathon adventure would be Disney.  Unfortunately some schedule conflicts prevented us from making the trip in 2011, but we signed up for the 2012 race on the first day registration opened in March 2011!

Katherine was planning to run a slightly slower pace than I would if I ran on my own, but I decided I would stick with her and run her pace. This race was never going to be about time and knew it would be a lot more fun if we made all the stops together instead of alone.

Somewhere in the stretch between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom they were handing out bananas. Best idea ever. My stomach was so happy. They handed them out again sometime later too, maybe around 18-19.  Disney, I applaud you. Every race should do this.


Between miles 16 and 17, the course in Animal Kingdom took us right by the Expedition Everest roller coaster.  We saw two people ahead of us go in and when we saw that there was almost no wait (5 minutes), we headed in as well. Because when else are you going to have the chance to ride a roller coaster in the middle of a marathon?

After finishing the ride and tweeting about it (of course!) we were back to running.

Hey, see that mountain? We just rode that roller coaster!

The stretch of highway between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios was the longest part of the race for me.  There was minimal entertainment and the temperature was starting to rise.  This was where the race started to get a little weird for me.  My legs (particularly my quads) were sore, but because I was running a slower pace than I normally would, the rest of me felt pretty good.  I don't think that my heart rate ever got all that high and felt like I could go faster.  I definitely never entered that pain zone/mental fog that normally shows up in the last few miles of a marathon.  I certainly was looking forward to finishing but I never NEEDED to be done.

Finally we passed mile 21 and made the turn into Hollywood Studios.  They were handing out fruit snacks (and chocolate - which I missed) at the first water stop in the park.  Again, I have to hand it to Disney on the food and water stations.  There were some Clif Shots stations, bananas, oranges, fruit snacks and chocolates.  And it seemed like we were getting water almost every mile.  Very well done and organized.

Really sad these guys weren't out the day before when I was in costume

We followed some kind of boardwalk to get from Hollywood Studios to Epcot and then we just had to run "around the world" before finishing. I'm not sure if it hurt or helped that we have spent the previous afternoon at Epcot and I knew exactly how far we had to go.

This was probably at mile 25.9. What's one more stop?

This was my fifth marathon, but the first time I have actually run the whole race with someone else.  So we had to finish hand in hand!


By far the most fun I have ever had running a marathon. Also the most time I have ever spent running a marathon, but I suppose that was to be expected.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Report

Goofy race weekend started on Friday with a trip to the expo.

I managed to escape without making too many purchases.  Just a nice race memento...

...and some Newtons.

On Saturday morning my alarm went off at 2:30 and on the first bus (3:00) over to the start/finish area at Epcot.  I hadn't been sure how early I needed to get there or how crowded the buses would be.  I ended up at Epcot at 3:15, which led to a ridiculous amount of waiting. I sat around for a while.  Finally shed my warm up pants and checked my bag around 4 (I had a throwaway jacket) and then stood around some more until they let us start the walk to the start area around 4:30.  The walk took about 20 minutes and then there was more standing around in the starting corrals until the race started at 5:30.  Thanks to my Philadelphia Marathon time I was able to move from corral E to corral B, so I was running pretty quickly after the elites started.

I had been debating for a while how to run this race.  I knew that slow was safe, but I was also tempted to go after my PR.  Although it's less than a year old, I feel like it's relatively soft (1:59) given that in Philly I ran two 2:00 halves back to back.  I thought that I could probably run comfortably at a 9:00 minute pace and finish with a new PR.  However, I knew that if I was going to miss a PR, I wanted to miss it by a fair amount.  Finishing in 2:00 or 2:01 would earn me nothing and would be too fast to be considered super easy.  I decided on Friday that I would see how I felt in the first few miles of the race and make the call.

I started around 9:30 pace and dropped to about 9:15 in the second mile.  When I tried to drop the pace again in mile 3, I realized that my legs weren't having it.  While 9:20-9:30 pace felt really comfortable, that jump down to 9:00 was going to require more effort than I was sure I wanted to take on.  I knew that to make up for the slower than 9:00 pace in the first two miles, I would have to get into the 8s at some point to PR.  I could see myself struggling and then finishing in 2:00.  I made the decision right then to back off and stopped looking at my Garmin.  I was going to do exactly what I said I would in my goals post, stop and take pictures and enjoy myself.  After making this decision I immediately felt relieved and knew that meant I was doing the right thing.

Since the race started so early, it was still dark for the first half, so I didn't see the point in stopping for character photos.  I also knew that the marathon didn't get to the Magic Kingdom until mile 11 or 12, so I figured I'd save those pictures for the next day when it would be lighter.

But I had to stop for pirates!

The sun was starting to come up as I left the Magic Kingdom and there were plenty of characters out as we ran past the fancy resorts near the park and back onto the highway to Epcot.

Then I was back in Epcot and it was a short dash to the finish line.

That's a barefoot Fred Flintstone ahead of me

I finished in 2:08:29, which was fine with me, and picked up my special 15th anniversary Donald medal.

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick nap while my friend Katherine and her husband headed to the expo to pick up her marathon bib and then we headed to Epcot for the afternoon.  My quads felt a bit sore, but other than that I felt pretty good.  And lots of walking is the best thing to do between races, right?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Goofy Challenge Goals

As you may know, based on the fact that I've mentioned it close to a million times, I'm running the Goofy Challenge this weekend! The fact that I will be running 39.3 miles in two days still doesn't seem quite real. But my bags are packed and I'm ready for some warm Florida sun after a chilly start to the week here in the DC area. This is most definitely not a race for me, it's an experience.  So my goals for this weekend are pretty simple: FINISH & FUN.

It would be nice to not have a PW in each race, but as long as I cross that finish line and collect my medals, I don't really care.  I don't know if I'll ever do another Disney race so I want to make the most of it.  This also happens to be my first ever trip to Disney World so I want to take it all in.  I'm planning to run with my camera and stop to get pictures with a lot of the characters, particularly during the marathon on Sunday.  I'll also have my phone and may attempt some mid-race social media updates, we'll see.  I read that the parks open at 9:00am, and even with a 5:30 start I'll still be running on marathon day, so if the opportunity to ride a ride presents itself, I will take advantage!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Goals

2011 was the best year so far of my relatively short running career and I am hoping that 2012 will be even better.  While I hope set plenty of new PRs, I don't want to make specific times my main goal. Instead I am choosing to focus on the process and setting goals that will ultimately help me become a better, stronger runner (and athlete).  I know that if I work on achieving these goals, faster times will come along with them.  That being said, these are my main goals for 2012.

Run more
In addition to being something that my coach advocates, I can see the difference that running more miles has made for me in my own somewhat limited running history.  I started tracking miles in 2009, the year I trained for my first marathon (Marines Corps) and the year I started to think of myself as a runner.  In 2009 I ran 595 miles, in 2010 1101 miles and in 2011 1284 miles.

2010 Baltimore marathon

All of my current PRs are from 2011.  While joining a team and starting regular speedwork certainly had a lot to do with my fall PRs (8k, 10 mile, marathon), I know that all of the running I did in 2010 is the biggest factor in the PRs I set last spring (5k, 10k, 10 mile (since broken), half marathon).  And I don't think I would have seen as many benefits from speedwork without a solid base.  I got to 50 miles in a week for the first time ever and I want to make sure I hit that weekly total more often the next time I am training for a marathon.

So one of my biggest plans for 2012 is to run more.  The goal? 1400 miles. While I am putting a specific number out there, getting to 1400 isn't what really matters to me.  I'm not going to push to hit a certain number of miles each month or fight through injuries to make sure I hit that number.  I'm just going to focus on the process of building and maintaining a strong base and taking a break (or running in the pool) when my legs and body need it.

Pick up the pace on long runs

I introduced speedwork to my training for the first time in 2011.  It started with solo visits to the track during training for the National Half and really picked up when I started running with CAR in the fall. I know that this made a huge difference for me and fully intend to keep it up in 2012.  However, one area where I'd like to focus on working harder is during my long runs. I know that in order to improve my marathon time, I'm going to need to practice running at a faster pace.  I know that there is a danger in running long runs too fast, so obviously I need to find the right balance.  So I'll focus on continuing to start slow and finish fast, while working to bring my average pace for the run down.

Just because I love the numbers, here are the times for my last two marathons along with the average for the long runs (17+) during each training cycle.
2010 Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon - 4:40:34 (10:42 pace) - Avg. long run pace - 11:35
2011 Philadelphia Marathon - 4:01: 23 (9:12 pace) - Avg. long run pace - 9:50

I know one of the big reasons that I was able to PR by 39 minutes in Philadelphia was that I ran my long runs over 90 seconds faster per mile. I believe that if I work over the course of this year to drop my long run pace by 20-30 seconds, I will see a corresponding drop in my marathon race pace.

Get back to swimming
As a former swimmer, I have burned out on the pool more times than I can count.  I took a few years off after college, then did Masters for about two years and then stepped away for a few more years.  When I decided to try triathlons last summer, I headed back to the pool again.  While I discovered that I am not cut out to be a cyclist, I really enjoyed getting back in the pool and swimming more than a casual 1000-1500 yards.

Unfortunately, once marathon training started in the fall I totally abandoned swimming and didn't go to the pool once between Labor Day and mid-December.

So one of my goals for 2012 is to get back in the pool more regularly.  I'm not sure that I want to do any triathlons this summer, but I do want to do a couple of open water swims and I'm already committed to the swim leg of a half ironman relay.  If I want to do well in those events, then I need to be swimming more than once a month.  I'd like to swim at least 50 times this year. Once a week isn't a lot but I think it's a good average for the year since I'm sure I'll swim more during the summer and less next fall when I train for Richmond.  I think having a number will keep me on track, rather than just pledging that I will swim "more."

Core/weight training
I am being somewhat optimistic putting this on here. Core and weight training are things I truly struggle to fit in and I don't hold out high hopes that 2012 will be any better.  But perhaps by being more aware that this is something I need to work on, and actually listing it as a goal, I will make some progress. I know I need to start simply and that less is more when it comes to adding new activities to my regular routine. If you have any tips or routines/programs that have worked for you, please share them. I will need all the help I can get to meet this goal!

So these are the four areas I'll be focusing on in 2012.  I know that January 1 is an arbitrary date, but I like using the start of a new year to evaluate where I am and refocus on where I want to be and what I need to do to get there.  I'm looking forward to putting in a lot of hard work over the next 12 months and continuing to progress as a runner.

Monday, January 2, 2012

December Recap

Miles: 114.93 (+ ~42 miles in the pool)

X-Training: 6 (4 elliptical, 2 swim)

Rest Days: 5

Race(s): Fairfax Four Miler (Dec. 31) - 35:01 (a fun run with friends to end the year)

New gear: Nike Frees!  I don't intend to run in these, but they'll be my gym and walking around shoes.

Workout goals:
Get in a few good long runs - Not every long run was quite as long as I had planned, but I got in a good 17 miler and I think I've done enough to survive Goofy.

Pool run at least once a week - Done. I've really enjoyed my Wednesday morning pool runs and I think they are something I should try to keep on the schedule even when I get back to more serious training.

Stay motivated and mix things up when needed - Done. My motivation hasn't always been high, but I think I did a good job this month making sure that I got some kind of workout in most days.

Non-workout goal: Get back to trying new recipes. I've been slacking the last few months. I did a so so job here. I did cook more though I didn't try a ton of new recipes. 

Ice cream flavor of the month: Ice cream was replaced by Christmas cookies this month!

December was an interesting month. I started off wishing that I could have taken a longer break after the Philadelphia marathon, but that wasn't a real option with the Goofy Challenge just over a month away. I decided I'd mix in more pool running and cross training and focus on getting in some type of cardio workout six days a week, rather than pressuring myself to run five times a week.  In the end, I think this plan worked out well.  I still ended up with more than 100 miles of running and if I add my land and pool miles together, it was actually my third highest total of the year (after the big marathon training months of September and October).  So I think I'm ready for Goofy, but I'll know for sure next weekend!

January Preview

Workout goals:
Smart recovery from Goofy - I know that running 39.3 miles in a weekend is going to be a strain on my body and I want to make sure I am smart about recovery so that I can have a strong 2012.  With that in mind, I plan to take 3 weeks off from running post-race.

Mix things up during my running break - I don't intend to take a full 3 weeks off from exercise, so this is a good opportunity to try some new things or get back to others that I have neglected (like swimming and yoga)

Swim - I was really enjoying being back in the pool last summer but that got completely abandoned during marathon training.  Since I'd like to do some open water swimming this summer, I know I need to start getting back to the pool (even if it is only once a week).  What better time to start than during my post Goofy running break?

Races: Goofy Challenge (January 7-8)

Non-workout goal: Clean start to 2012 - I like the idea of the new year being a fresh start and with that in mind, I think it's time to do a good cleaning of my apartment and get rid of those items that I never use and clothes I never wear.