Tag Archives: Nutrition

Put Your Muscles Where Your Mouth Is

Yesterday my six week CrossFit challenge came to a close. It was a bittersweet day because, although we were happy to have made it all the way through the course, we were sad about our weekly meetings coming to an end. Much as I suspected, I am not the only one who enjoyed working with the same group of ladies each time I went to class.

The six weeks went by quickly and, as I looked around the gym while we were doing our last WOD (Workout of the Day) together, I was surprised and impressed by how far we had all come in such a short amount of time. Everybody looked stronger, we knew the names of the movements we were supposed to be doing (a big improvement for sure; at many times during the six weeks I felt sorry for our instructors- it must have felt like herding cats trying to get us all going the right direction!), and, most impressive of all, nobody was complaining. Having a group of women, who two months ago would not have described themselves as particularly fit or at all CrossFit savvy, working together on a hot, Hawaiian Saturday afternoon and not hearing any complaints about the aches, pains, and sweat is a big accomplishment!

Our final WOD; do you hear the Eye of the Tiger theme from ‘Rocky’ playing?

Our final workout was a team workout, so, while we didn’t do all of the movements on our own, we did all do the 2 burpees every minute on the minute, and that counts for something, right? As a team, we managed to get through almost three rounds (we had just goblet squats and burpees left to power through, c’est la vie) and, I’m ashamed to admit, that when I first looked at the whiteboard and saw the 20 minute cap, I was concerned we wouldn’t make it through one entire round. Essentially what I am trying to tell you is that this group of ladies and I are a bunch of badass mofos and, when there are tacos at stake, we don’t play around.

Our final WOD was followed by a Taco Tuesday (on Saturday) themed fiesta, and it was well-deserved. No matter where we started from, we all worked hard to make ourselves just a little bit better each time we stepped into the gym. Using the guidance provided through the daily emails, we each tried to find a way to eat more healthfully, and, even from day to day, I could see physical improvement in all of us. There were ladies who couldn’t run the entire 400 m warm-up run on day one, and, by the time we were up to running a mile, Coach Gil said it was the first time he had ever had all participants in the New You group finish in under thirteen minutes. Progress! The first time I tried to do an overhead squat holding just the light PVC practice bar, my shoulders and hips were so stiff I almost fell over, and now I can do them, tentatively, with 25 lbs of total weight. Tentative progress, but progress all the same!

Kettlebell swings. To demonstrate how much I’ve learned, I knew to ask if we were supposed to be doing American or Russian style swings.

I’m excited to see how CrossFit will influence my running (yeah, I signed up to continue. That’s how it is with me, I guess; I sign up for things like this thinking it will be a fun, one-off experiment and I’ll have a funny story to tell about that time I trained for a marathon or that time I did several weeks of CrossFit, but then I really enjoy what I’m doing and see changes in myself that I really like and I’m hooked.) In the short-term, the workouts have made me very tired, but I think that is to be expected as my body adjusts to being challenged in a new way (challenged, tortured, po-tay-to, po-tah-to). I think CrossFit will be good at countering the stiffness that running, just by the nature of the fact that your body is always moving the same way, inherently creates. This must be why so many runners I know also like to compete in triathlons because the swimming and the biking force you to do something a little different, but I’m afraid of sharks and I don’t like to put my face in public pools because they are gross, so triathlons seem to be out for me. Also I think that people would laugh at my cruiser if I tried to ride it in a race. So, CrossFit it is, for now.

I think, in the long run, it will help my running. With a stronger core and more balanced strength, I predict that my endurance will increase and I will maybe even become a little faster. Time will tell. I don’t know if I will see these kinds of results in the upcoming Hapalua half-marathon (ummmm…..it’s next Sunday! One week!) because I am so flippin’ tired, but, I am going to take it a bit easier this week to allow my muscles some rest. Of course, it’s also time to start eating some extra carbohydrates- music to my ears; bring on the pasta! Last year I ran this race in about 2:05, and this year I hope to run it in under 2:00. After my fantastic marathon, I thought that this was a pretty achievable goal, but I’m starting to have doubts. I will be happy to knock any time off of last year’s race, and ultimately hope that I don’t add time, but if I’ve learned anything from having trained for two marathons and, now, three half-marathons, it’s that every day is different, and you’ve got to run the best you can in the moment. Here’s hoping my newly-found CrossFit muscles feel revived and ready to help power me on after a week of rest!

CrossFit: it’ll put hair on your lip!
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Stayin’ Alive

 

View from the gym. Makes it easier to play through the pain when you’re looking at this.

Yes! More than halfway through my CrossFit ‘experiment’ and I’m still standing.

I’m really enjoying the class and am learning quite a bit about CrossFit. Mostly I’m learning that it really IS as hard as it looks and that I really like working out with only ladies. There is something so liberating about showing up at the gym and knowing that nobody is going to be impatiently waiting for me to relinquish the barbell or be silently judging the (lack of) weight I’m lifting; these ladies, like me, have nothing to prove. I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed by others in our group; we’d all like to continue with the ‘ole XFit (is that a thing? like Xtina?), but we’d like to continue with just ladies. Can it be ladies night every night, please?

This CrossFit program has us meeting three or four days a week for an hour long estrogen-fueled sweat sesh. Most days, we start with a short run to warm-up (ahem, I ran my fastest mile on Saturday, 7:35, no big deal [brushes off shoulders]) which everybody but me seems to dread, but I like it because it’s the only part of the class where I feel like I know what I’m doing. Then, we move on to going over the day’s class goal which is usually learning some new movement, like a clean or toes to bar, etc., and we finish the day with a Workout of the Day (WOD for short, CrossFit is so hip that even the workouts get nicknames) that focuses on whatever the day’s skill was. It’s a pretty simple format.

We’re learning the correct form for lots of types of lifts and movements; they all look pretty straightforward when I watch the coaches demonstrate, but, man, I’ve never felt so uncoordinated as when I’m trying to follow their lead. It’s kind of like dancing, which I’m also not very good at, but I don’t let my lack of natural talent stop me from enjoying myself. So far we’ve learned how to jerk, snatch, clean, squat, toes to bar, pull-up, and burpee. Soooooo….many…..burpeeeeesssss.

We burpee if we show up to class late. We burpee if someone misses class. We burpee if we forget someone’s name. We burpee if we row under or over our rowing goal. We burpee if we’re bored. We burpee if we’re tired. We burpee if we’re hungry. Essentially, we burpee for the heck of it. It seems that, much like my parents’ telling me to “go play outside” whenever I started to annoy them as a child, the coaches instruct us to burpee as a diversion technique. I will admit it is pretty effective and they say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m not sure if “they” ever did a burpee.

I’m not supposed to eat this.

Part of this program focuses on our diet. We are supposed to be eliminating processed sugar (even maple syrup,  which, since I’m from VT, is essentially a food group) and eating more protein and healthy fats. While I haven’t cut out sugar completely, I have almost done so (as an aside, tea without honey is hardly worth drinking), and I am surprised by the difference I see and feel. Swapping sugars for more protein and healthy fats has made me less inclined to snack throughout the day, and I feel like I have more energy in general. I’ll admit that, as a vegetarian, I’ve found it nearly impossible to completely forgo bread and I’m probably eating more starchy grains, like rice, than I’m supposed to be eating, but, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to maintain her sanity

The first week of the program, I cut sugar out completely, and, after a mini-meltdown when Don asked if I wanted to grab lunch at our favorite restaurant, which serves mainly sandwiches, decided that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to both completely eliminate sugar and maintain my status as a functioning member of society. By the end of the week, tired of hard boiled eggs and avocados, I found myself spinning around the kitchen like a whirling dervish trying to find an afternoon snack, cursing my vegetarianism as I imagined my classmates eating grilled chicken. I was probably one paleo recipe away from spending my afternoons crying into a bag of marshmallows; at Don’s recommendation, I began to allow myself the simple luxury of bread and feel much better now.

So far, this has been a great experience, and I’d like to continue pursuing my dreams of CrossFit competency after the New You program ends. I get a good vibe from the other gym goers and the coaching staff is friendly, knowledgeable and chill. My personal favorite is a gal named Coach Tiff because her whole “thang” is essentially my life goal. She seems really happy to be at the gym, even if she is spending much of her time helping a bunch of sweaty newbies adjust their form, and she is so fit that she looks like how I imagine look when I’m dreaming. That level of fitness takes a lot of dedication, and I admire that. I’m sure, since I’m doing this program and all, that I’ll look like Coach Tiff in a few weeks; thats how this fitness thing works, right?

there-should

For Thanksgiving, this year, I opted for a non-traditional dessert. Since it was just going to be the two of us, I tried a recipe I had found online for Chocolate Stout Pumpkin Brownies, and I’m not going to bother to link to the recipe because it was a total bust.

I guess, judging from the title of the recipe I should have known it was going to be a bust- I mean, there is a lot going on there: chocolate, stout, and pumpkin? Kinda wild- but I had high hopes for this dessert. Even though they are relatively simple to make, I hardly ever make brownies from scratch because 1. I need a pan of brownies on the kitchen counter calling to me every time I walk past like I need a hole in the head, and, 2. I hate chopping chocolate; it is unsatisfying and makes a big mess.

I have a trusty brownie recipe that I’ve made in the past when an occasion called for not-from-the-box brownies and it’s this one from SmittenKitchen (or it might be this one, but either way you can’t go wrong. Or better yet make BOTH and have a taste-off), but I stumbled across this other recipe when I was looking, a couple of weeks ago, for recipes that called for beer (it’s a long story… actually it’s not: we are part of a home brewing club and for a recent pot-luck meeting it was decided that we all would try to make food that featured beer as an ingredient). I saved this recipe that called for a cup of stout beer as the liquid and featured a festive cream cheese/pumpkin swirl because I thought it sounded like the perfect finale to our small Thanksgiving feast. It was not.

The texture of the brownies is good- cakey and crumbly without being greasy- and they smell delicious, but they taste like a  square of baking chocolate. Bitter and bland. It’s been a huge bummer in our house; never has an 8×8 pan of brownies lasted for so long. I knew they were as bad as I’d imagined when I returned from work yesterday to find that my husband, who had the day off, had not yet helped himself to another brownie. Normally he would have helped himself to half of the pan- especially since he cleaned the house while I was at work and deserved a reward.

We bought a tub of frosting to see if we could salvage them, but I find that now I’m just eating spoonfuls of frosting instead of the brownies, and I need to be eating spoonfuls of frosting like I need a hole in the head! I’ve thrown in the towel, but Don has vowed to give the brownies just one more chance with the frosting, and then it looks like they are headed for the trash bin. I hate wasting things like this- the ingredients and the time it took to make the damn things- but it also seems just as silly to waste calories eating something that should taste yummy but does not. Life is too short to eat a bad brownie, am I right?

Luckily we are still in the midst of marathon training to offset some of those lost calories. Last Sunday we had our longest training run, the 20 miler affectionately known as the Motherf&@#er, and I felt pretty good at the end of it (that’s a lie, I felt terrible at the end of it, but I felt pretty good after a shower and some stretching. The stretching is key).

I ran it in about 3.5 hours which, while not fast for our group of over-achievers, is pretty incredible for me. I think that I could run the remaining 6.2 miles in about an hour (plus a few minutes), so it seems like I’m in good shape for my goal of running the marathon in less than 5 hours. I’m aiming for 4:45, but I would be satisfied with any time of 4:59 or less.

At this point, it is really mind over matter and all depends on whether I can talk myself into pushing just a little harder for just a little longer and ignoring the fact that my legs hurt and my armpits are raw. We’re fit and we’ve trained as much as our bodies will allow, so now it comes down to grit. For now, I’m enjoying our taper time and looking forward to the fact that tomorrow’s long run is only 7 miles through the picturesque (and hilly) Ho’omaluhia gardens. These few weeks of rest and food will hopefully help give us time to restore for the big day. One thing not on my pre-race fuel menu? Chocolate Stout Pumpkin Brownies.

 

Sabotage (Do I hear the Beastie Boys?)

We like to eat at my workplace. The team I am a part of actively seeks excuses to go out to lunch, to bring celebratory baked goods to share (Hooray! Did you hear? It’s Tuesday!), and  to coordinate pot-luck feasts. While I appreciate the camaraderie and the good eats, it sometimes gets to be a little overwhelming and I find myself trying to hide when I see the pastry box coming around the corner.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that we had the occasion to go out for lunch on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday- my poor salad sat wilting in the fridge looking less appetizing by the day, and was pretty sad looking when I finally ate it today- and we have had three cakes to share this week- one for every day of the week thus far! On Monday we had a birthday celebration, Tuesday was a farewell, and today, well, today we happened upon a bake sale, so naturally we needed to buy an entire cake. I was managing to exercise my willpower pretty well until today when I heard the magic words that send me into a hypnotic, eating-everything-like-Garfield-eats-lasagna (with both paws and a wide open maw) state: carrot cake.

I love carrot cake. The moist shredded carrots, that velvety, slightly sour cream cheese frosting; it is perfection in a 9″ round pan. Carrot cake, especially when it is not homemade, is often the victim of poor handling and can be underwhelming and bland. I’ve had my heart broken by a grocery store carrot cake a time or two before, so when I saw that the cake purchased from the bake sale came in a commercial box and not the trappings that would have been provided by a home cook, I thought I was safe. And then I heard the rumblings:

“It’s so light,” someone whispered.

“Real cream cheese in that frosting!” I overheard.

“The nuts on the edge are candied,” was tossed over a shoulder by a colleague passing my desk.

I tried to console myself and reinforce my willpower (It can’t be that good, right? It’s just that free cake always tastes better than not free cake, right?), and I managed to hold out until three thirty when I walked by the open cake box. This was no grocery store hack job, this was the real deal. Yes, it looked light and moist, yes the frosting was a creamy, ivory color that only real cream cheese can provide, and yes, there were candied walnuts pressed into the outer edge of frosting, but the real nail in my coffin- the raisins.

No carrot cake is complete without the raisins. There should never be nuts in the batter and there should always be raisins. End of story.

As I cut myself a piece and sandwiched it between two paper plates for the drive home (I was determined not to allow myself the pleasure of devouring it until I had at least gone to the gym), I felt a little bit of me die inside, and I wondered if this was how Superman felt  when faced with kryptonite? It is so hard, as a social creature, to resist the daily sabotages that pop up in an office setting. Someone is always offering a taste of this, and a bite of that, and not only is eating a very communal thing, but I also feel badly if, on Monday, I sample Sandy’s cookies, and then on Wednesday I turn down Marcia’s brownies. Nobody, and I do really mean nobody, wants to hang out with the Debbie-downer who eats only wheat germ and yogurt and glowers at everyone else with a superior sense of self-satisfaction while watching them happily roll around in their cream cheese frosting.

I know my officemates already think I’m a little weird for being a vegetarian (meat is the base of the Hawaiian food pyramid, the next level is pineapple), so I’m careful to not appear too wheat-germy, but when you really get down to it, I’m a rolling around in the frosting kinda gal at heart. My hope is that I have a savior in the office- someone who was willing to take one for the team and bring what was leftover of this beautiful cake home to share with their family. I know it will be hard to resist if, when it’s time for elevensies, I open the fridge and see that tasty treat is up for grabs; there is no contest between it and my usual snack of oven-roasted almonds, and I can already taste, in my mind’s mouth, how it will compliment my morning tea. Although I gave in to the siren call of the cream cheese today, I at least prefaced it with a trip to the gym, and my hope is that I won’t fall victim to it again tomorrow.

 

 

Why is it Always Running!?

“Ugh, why is it always running!?” a little boy exclaimed as he rounded a corner of the sidewalk on his scooter and was faced with a herd of sweaty adults clomping toward him. I belonged to that herd of runners and, after a hot and arduous set of repeats up a hill that looked deceptively small from the bottom but was in fact endless, shared the little boy’s sentiment; why, indeed, is it always running?

I had a really great run on Tuesday- the night we charged up the aforementioned hill. Some days, the gears seem to be turning in sync, and running feels much easier; I have been having more of these days of late, days when I am able to push the discomfort of being sweaty and out of breath aside and focus on going a little faster than feels natural, days when I am actually sad to reach the end of my run.

There are still, however, many days when I hate running.  Days when all I can focus on is the fact that I am hot and tired and I wonder if I can sneak back to my car and drive away without anybody noticing. I had two of these days this week, and one of them was today. The hardest part about today’s run was the fact that we ran past our parked cars in the middle of our run, and one member of the group actually did decide to go back to his car and drive home. It was difficult to tell him “See you Tuesday and have a nice weekend” as he walked toward the parking lot when what I really meant was “Take me with you!”

Even on the days when I feel like I’m totally sucking, I’m still faster than I used to be. Our entire group, actually, has gotten faster overall. I’m able to keep up with the “fast” members of our group and I, generally, don’t feel quite so close to death at the end of each run.* We are all becoming faster and fitter, and it is a great feeling to know that, not only am I improving, but that the program is working for everyone, and we are all very different people.

A contributing factor to my crappy running today and on Thursday  was the fact that I’m still figuring out how to manage my time so that I am getting in good workouts on the days that I don’t run. This week was a fail for me in the time management department and, because I was tired from long days at work, I didn’t drag myself to the gym as often as I should have. The one day I did make myself go, I merely pedaled the elliptical while I watched a few episodes of Forensic Files; it was better than nothing, but just barely.

FullSizeRender-38
Fifty shades of green.

One thing that I did really well last week, and have done already this week, is plan healthy meals and make them ahead of time so that I have a higher probability of having time to make it to the gym. I think I’ve finally found the meal planning technique that works best for me, and that is to make one or two dishes on the weekend that we can eat all week. For variety, we make some sort of salad to accompany our main dishes and that keeps us from getting bored. This week’s star is a cauliflower/asparagus soup, and I am looking forward to it.

When I think “healthy” I think of a meal that is made mostly of vegetables and doesn’t have a lot of added fats, sugars or processed ingredients. It has taken some time to train myself not to add cheese to everything I eat and to substitute a salad for a side of sugary, carb-heavy bread (sometimes), but I’m getting there. This week, I’m going to stick to my healthy diet (and avoid the booby-trapped cupboards full of Girl Scout cookies) and make a better effort to drag myself to the gym even if I am tired and traffic is bad and I get home from work wanting only to snuggle with my dog and cat.

Essentially what I looked like all last week.
Essentially what I looked like all last week.

 

*By “keep up” with the fast runners, I mean that I can see them for the entire duration of the run instead of just glimpsing them as they disappear over the crest of a hill in the distance.

Shifting Gears

Frosty the Snowman's cousin, Grainy the Sandman.
Frosty the Snowman’s cousin, Grainy the Sandman.

With the marathon now behind me- two weeks behind, in fact, and the holidays winding down, it is time for me to stop resting on my laurels and look forward to what fitness in 2016 will mean to me. The past few months have been incredibly busy ones; not only was I in the midst of a super-duper running regime with my eye on that marathon finish line, but after spending much of spring and all of summer unemployed, I started a full time job just before Thanksgiving. Having the structure of a running program already in place helped keep physical activity a part of my daily life as I made the transition from person-who-has-more-free-time-than-she-knows-what-to-do-with to person who now-is-required-to-sit-at-a-desk-for-eight-hours-a-day-and-is-struggling-to-find-time-to-make-gym/dog walking/cooking-priorities.

With the completion of the marathon comes a brief and necessary respite from an intense running schedule, but without the set-in-stone dates with my running group, I’ve been finding it a challenge to make my workouts a priority. The biggest problem I’m faced with is that I’m a morning person and I’d like to be both at work and at the gym in the mornings because it is when I am at my best. Because I am bound by the limits of science and physics and because I do not know where Hermione Granger stashed the Time Turner necklace when she was finished with it, it is not possible for me to be both at work and at the gym simultaneously.

I am fortunate in that my new workplace (at a job I am starting to really like for its mental challenges even though I wish I wasn’t sitting at a desk for hours on end) is flexible and I am allowed to set my own 8 hour workday schedule. This is a huge blessing, and I know it. Because of this flexibility, I have been able to get myself into work as the sun rises and be at the gym ready to go by 4:00 pm. This is, in theory, plenty of time for a normal person to fit in a good workout and still have enough time to make a healthy dinner, and this is where I must find a way to compromise between my laid-back, no hurry no worry, unemployed schedule when I had to be sure to stretch my daily tasks to fill all of my waking hours and my new schedule of one who is gainfully employed and there now seem to be more things to do in a day and, even though I wake up a full hour earlier, less time in which to do them.

For me, the solution, as always, is planning. I’m taking time this week to buckle down on my meal planning so that there are fewer spur-of-the-moment trips to the grocery store for a single item and I’m also trying to make sure I have a loose idea of what I want to accomplish at the gym each week. It is much easier to decide that I don’t have time to go to the gym when the gym is this vague idea of somewhere I will go to do something in order to get a little sweaty; it will be harder to talk myself out of going when I know that Monday is “arms” day and Tuesday will be “legs” day because on Thursday I want to go for a run which means “legs” day can’t be on either Wednesday or Friday. Having a concrete plan makes it much harder to say “no thanks, I’ll pass,” and that is a good thing especially when it feels like my schedule, as often happens this time of year, has wound itself out of control.

It’s mind over matter for us as we wind down 2015 and look forward to new beginnings. It is time to make a plan and give ourselves a hard time if we make excuses and don’t stick to it. Its time to find a goal to work toward- it doesn’t have to be a big goal, maybe you’d like to be able to stay on the elliptical for 20 minutes without feeling like your heart will burst, perhaps you’d like to start lifting weights and have your eye on being able to do some biceps curls with the 10 lb dumbbells without dropping them on your toe, or it might be as simple as dragging your tired, sweatpants-clad butt off the couch and taking a mile walk five days a week- these are good goals! I’ve set myself another big goal of running the Hapalua Half Marathon in April and hopefully improving my time, and having that looming on the horizon will help keep me from becoming fused with the couch (so will the awesome new running skirt my parents gave me for Christmas! I can’t wait to take it on its maiden voyage).

Remember, as you’re setting your post-holiday fitness goals, to set some simple, easy to attain goals alongside your bigger, harder goals. It can be overwhelming to work toward the goal of losing 10 lbs if you don’t have the gratification of first accomplishing the goals of eating more vegetables, walking at least 10,000 steps in a day, or making it to the gym three times in a week along the way. These smaller goals help you achieve the bigger goal and give you that nice feeling of accomplishment, and there is no better motivator than feeling accomplished.

Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!
Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!

 

Hazy, Hot, and Hilly

Yesterday was the perfect beach day. The sun rose in fiery glory above Koko Head crater, the air was thick with the kind of humidity that encourages a beach blanket snooze, and temperatures were already creeping into the high 80s by 6:30 am. What was I doing, you ask? I was running 16 miles.

It's getting very real.
It’s getting very real.

We gathered early at the Kalapawai Cafe and were disappointed to feel the sticky heat of the day already making itself known. From the cafe, we were shuttled to Hawaii Kai, about 16 miles away, and dropped off to run back to Kailua. Sunday seemed to be a busy day on the island and we met many other runners and large groups of cyclists as we made our way home, and everybody looked as if they were melting in the heat. I felt myself fading early in the run, and, when we stopped at an aid station and someone mentioned that we were at the halfway point (ONLY the halfway point!), I wanted to cry. I was moving pretty slowly, but I focused on staying hydrated, eating enough to keep going, and making it to the end of our route. The heat made everything else feel worse: my knees hurt, I was tired and thirsty, my armpits were chafing, and it was so hot that to run another 8 miles felt impossible.

The other things that were starting to feel impossible were all of the hills that we had to climb. It seemed that as soon as we crested one, another was in sight and I began to understand how Sisyphus might have felt; struggling to the top only to have to do it all over again. But, like Sisyphus, maybe there is an element of joy I can find in the struggle because here’s the thing: the marathon doesn’t have many hills. While I was running up yesterday’s steep inclines in the blazing sun, I questioned the purpose of running all of these motherf@#&ing hills when there is, I’ve been told, only one real hill on the entire marathon course, but, in all honesty, these mother@#%ing hills are making me stronger.

I think that if I can make it through 16 miles of heart-stopping hills without my heart actually stopping, there is a chance that the marathon will seem not necessarily easy, but also not like a death-defying feat. If my legs are accustomed to propelling my sad little body up steep hills again and again, then maybe they won’t buckle underneath me at mile 23. And if I’m used to talking myself out of lying down in the bushes on the side of the road and hoping a wild animal eats me when I’m at the base of YET ANOTHER HILL- OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MIKE????, then maybe I’ll be able to talk myself out of veering off course, breaking into someone’s house and having a nap on their couch at mile 24. I think this is Mike’s plan; he’s putting us through torture now so that we get to mile 20 without even realizing it, and when the going gets really tough, we’ll be tougher.

I’m at the point in my training now where some pieces of equipment have failed me, and some have proven their worth a million times over. I’m still in love with my Topo Fli-Lyte sneaks because of their lightness and roomy toe box (although I was starting to have some mild foot pain after runs over 10 miles, so I did get some SuperFeet inserts for them and this seems to be just the ticket for my big ‘ole footsies), and I’ve recently fallen in love with Lululemon’s Pleat to Street running skirt. I love this skirt because it has all the benefits of wearing tight spandex shorts (no chafing, no shifting) without the embarrassment of wearing tight spandex shorts (ummm….they are made of spandex and are really tight, need I say more?). I bought this skirt (off the clearance rack, total score!) on a whim, and after wearing it on a couple of longer runs and then switching back to running shorts yesterday, it has become my bottom of choice. I love it so much that I’m considering going back to the store and buying another at full price.

Charge
The FitBit Charge HR in tangerine; ain’t she cute?

Sadly, my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor was a total fail for any run longer than 8 miles. Even when I applied copious amounts of BodyGlide to my ribcage, the strap caused a lot of chafing. I even tried to put an extra-big bandaid over the chafed spots, but it didn’t help. I was pretty disappointed because I had become accustomed to pacing myself based on my heart rate, but I managed well enough without it until I found an alternative. Two weeks ago, my FitBit broke (it was old and had lived a hard life) and I upgraded to the Charge HR that tracks my heart beat using sensors on the back of my wrist. And, in true FitBit form, even though my old one was too old to be covered by a warranty, the company offered me 25% off the purchase of any model of new FitBit. I dug the discount, and so far, I’m digging the new technology.

ChargeHR
Tracking my heart rate while I bench press.

My water bottle belt is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the luxury of having a drink of water available whenever I need it, but occasionally one of the water bottles will get bounced out of its holster. I think I’ve solved the problem by tightening the strap and placing the belt a little higher on my waist (I hate to toot my own horn*, but I do think I’ve lost a little weight- even if it is just from sweating) because I think the problem might be that the belt was sliding too low and getting bounced more than normal. I’m looking into some other portable water options for the race just in case the belt proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. One other downside to the belt is that the storage pouch is a little small. I wish there was another one on the opposite side of the belt so that I could fit my gels and my keys without having to worry about busting the zipper.

Things seem to be aligning as we get closer to marathon day; I’m nervous about our upcoming 18 mile run this weekend, but I won’t start worrying in earnest until Thursday night after I’ve made it through our weeknight runs. 18 miles seems like such a long way to run, but I remember feeling the same way about each double digit distance, and so far I’ve managed to make it and feel pretty good at the end of each run. I know some of us, yesterday, were questioning our desire to run the marathon, but I think that is probably a good sign that we are giving the distance the respect it deserves. We are not in danger of being unprepared. Although yesterday was very hot and I was going more slowly than I did when we ran over the Pali, I actually felt better at the end of this run than at the end of the other, and I think it might be because I ate more snacks along the way. In addition to a gel, I also ate a few Clif Shot Bloks, and they might have made the difference.

This morning I expected to feel stiff and crippled, but I hopped out of bed and felt no worse for the wear. At the end of our run, the proprietor of the Kalapawai Cafe (who met us at the finish having run 20 miles himself) treated us all to breakfast and I enjoyed the most divine egg and cheese sandwich ever to grace my lips. I didn’t think I was hungry, but I remember taking the first bite and then looking down to see an empty plate. I did some pretty extensive stretching after I hobbled home, and then joined Mel, a fellow runner, and her family poolside to finally enjoy the weather the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enjoy a Mai Tai and leaned my elbows on the edge of the pool, kicking my legs lazily while her children showed off their jumping skills. It really was a perfect afternoon and I wonder if that brief hydrotherapy made the difference in my lack of soreness and stiffness today. Perhaps it was the Mai Tai; either way, I’m considering giving it all a go again after Sunday’s 18 miles. It can’t hurt, right?

Post run R & R. Thanks Mel!
Post run R & R; just what the Doctor ordered. Thanks Mel!

 

*No I don’t; that is the entire purpose of having a blog- tooting one’s own horn.

 

Halfway There!

On Saturday night Don and I, at long last, signed up for the Honolulu Marathon! We figured that it was time to seal our fate and fully commit to the race. There is no turning back now- yikes!

Yesterday the group and I ran approximately 14 miles- a little more than a Half-Marathon! Mother Nature gave us a perfect day: overcast, light breeze, and rain-free, and I managed to finish in about 2.5 hours. Because my 12 mile run had been dishearteningly difficult and because my right hip has been a little sore lately, I went into yesterday’s run feeling anxious, but I needn’t have worried. The cooler weather definitely helped, and I was able to maintain a steady pace without any walking breaks (aside from stopping at our roving aid stations, and thank goodness for them!).

I felt great yesterday and the route we ran followed the coast from Waimanalo to Hawaii Kai, so I had plenty of good scenery to look at. The surf was pretty high and I saw a handful of surfers (and even one very brave paddle boarder) enjoying the waves, fishermen were out early trying to get the catch of the day, and we were joined by some cyclists participating in a local Tour de Cure. Along the way, I tried to focus on my form; when I get tired, I tend to collapse forward and slouch in a posture I think of as “shrinky-torso” or “the letter C.” This is a terrible posture for anything  physically active and is a default position for me when I tire. I actually first became aware of it in college when my riding coaches christened it “the letter C,” and I had no idea it would continue to haunt me years later when running. I guess they say that old habits die hard, and that certainly seems to have some truth to it.

When I shrink into a slouch, it makes it harder to breathe, my stride becomes shorter and less powerful, and my shoulders get cramped from being rounded. None of this is effective for good running, so I tried to notice whenever I felt myself getting tired and shrinking yesterday, and stand up a little straighter and I think that also contributed to the success of my run.

It feels like things are starting to come together; Don and I have been experimenting with the various mid-run nutrition options available to us, and we have found things we like (or at the very least won’t make us gag)- more on those later- I’m getting faster, and we both are feeling more comfortable with the double digit mileage. After yesterday’s run, I was trying to decide if I felt good enough to run the same route again (hypothetically, of course) to gauge how I’d feel if I had to run the marathon RIGHT NOW instead of in two months (Oh dear god. TWO MONTHS?), and while I don’t think I’m fit enough that I’d have been able to run it again in the same amount of time, I do think I could have done it. This is a huge amount of progress; just yesterday my Dad reminded me it wasn’t that long ago when I was complaining about barely being able to run three miles on a treadmill without someone stopping to ask if I was experiencing a cardiac event, and now I’m usually at least five miles in before someone comments on the bright pink hue of my face. The beauty of running is that progress is easily quantifiable in so many ways. Now that I’m officially locked into the race, I feel an added sense of purpose to my workouts and I hope things stay on the upswing at least until I cross the finish line!

What’s the Best Diet? Healthy Eating 101 According to Dr. Mike Evans

I came across this video on my Facebook newsfeed earlier this week; it was posted by the Wellness Center I used to visit in Germany and it does a great job of succinctly presenting advice for healthy eating habits. It’s definitely worth a watch if you have any confusion about what healthy eating means and want to reaffirm your desire to stay away from fad diets that are unsustainable because there is no way in HELL that you can go the rest of your lifetime without eating potatoes or bread!