Friday, March 30, 2012

Eat: Beef Stroganoff and Bonus: Short Shorts

Hey guys, question.

Do these shorts make me look pale?
Oh nevermind. Who am I kidding.
It has been so hot recently that I have been reduced to embracing my short shorts. These are one of the first pieces of Lulu that I ever got (a birthday present from BFF) - Run: Speed Shorts, and in the past I have been reluctant to wear them. These suckers are short - a 3" inseam. To give you an idea of just how ridiculous they are, I am 5'2" and have a 29" inseam and they are almost inappropriate on me. Before I packed them for last night's run, I put them on and consulted Husband:

Me: J, are these too short?
Husband: Turn around.
(I turn around)
Husband: Bend over.
(I bend over. No reaction.)
Me: Ugh, can you totally see my butt in these?
Husband: Nope. You're fine.
Me: I don't think I believe you.

Anyhow, Prabir and I had a semi-disasterous run on Wednesday. It was 80 degrees and there was so much tree pollen that I truly felt like I was dying only 2 miles into our planned 4 miles. Thankfully, yesterday it was only (only?!?!) about 72 degrees and the pollen didn't seem as bad. I wore the short shorts and think that my bum was safely covered the whole time. In fact, I was reminded of just how comfortable those Speed Shorts are and I'm thinking I need another pair for summer training... once my Lenten Lulu Fast is complete of course.

We did a 10k before the big 10k on Saturday - a totally random course that took us 58:00. Hoping for something faster on Saturday. We walked for a few blocks when we were overwhelmed by heat and pollen, which we will not be doing on Saturday, so that will help. Prabir's goal is to sub-55:00. I'm going to try to stick with him.

The other news of the week is that Wednesday was Husband's birthday. He requested that I make his favorite dish of mine, Beef Stroganoff. Because it is pretty easy and very customizable to fit a variety of diets (no diet, vegetarian, low fat), I figured it would be good Eat entry.

Full recipe after the cut...

But before that, let me just share two gorgeous pictures of Maymont's Italian Garden. The tulips are in full bloom right now and it is just breathtakingly gorgeous.

Yesterday afternoon

This morning - the tulips haven't woken up yet.

And now for the recipe...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Racing with Friends

The Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k is just a few days away, and as race day approaches I'm thinking a lot about running with my friends.

I'd say that generally, I run half of my races by myself and the other 45% with one friend. That other 5% of the time, I "run" with more than one friend, and most often that race is the Monument Avenue 10k. This is due to a few reasons:
  1. I'm such a big fan of the Monument Avenue 10k that every year I coerce somebody new into joining me.
  2. Most of the runners that I know live in or around Richmond, and if you live in or around Richmond and you are a runner, you kind of have to do the 10k. So, almost all of my runner friends do the 10k.
This year, I will be "running" the 10k with Husband, BFF, two coworkers, Hot Mother Runner Marcey, and of course my #2, Prabir. That's a lot of people - all with very different paces. Obviously, I can't run the 10k with all of them. So what's a girl to do?

I'm sure that a lot of people run into this problem. In fact, it has even appeared in Runner's World's "Ask Miles" column.

It is very rare that I stick with one person throughout an entire race. In fact, I don't think I have ever done it.... (checking memory banks).... nope. I haven't. So here are a few ways that I handle the "racing with friends" situation:
  1. As Miles suggests, I definitely recommend discussing your intentions before the race. Ideally, well before the race. Don't wait until you are hanging out at the start line to tell your racing partner that you don't plan on sticking with them until the finish. Personally, I always let my racing partner know my intentions when we sign up for the race. Usually I say something like, "I just want you to know that I will definitely be starting this race with you, but I can't guarantee that we'll hang together for the whole race."
  2. Find a happy medium. If you've convinced someone to run their first race, I think you should at the very least start with them, even if it means dropping back into a later corral. Heck, even if it's not their first race, I am a big believer in starting a race together. Then again, I'm not a PR-chasing-amazingly-talented-and-fast runner either. I often end up running at least the first mile with my racing buddy, even if their pace is not as fast as mine. I take the time to chat and warm up nicely before taking off at my own speed.
  3. If and when you do seperate, make sure you wish your racing partner good luck, (optional high five) and tell them you'll be cheering for them at the finish.
  4. If you say you'll be there at the finish, BE THERE. Preferably with an extra bottle of water to shove into your friend's hand as soon as they cross the line (and especially if they are a first timer).
If you happen to be the person who will be "left behind" (not a good way to say it, but I can't think of a better way right now), don't hold it against your faster buddy. Prabir almost always leaves me in his dust around mile 4 of the 10k, which is absolutely fine with me.

Perhaps what I'm getting to is what I see as the golden rule of racing with friends. I want to have a good race (i.e. not try to kill myself keeping up with someone who is way faster than me) and I want my friend to have a race (i.e. not slow themselves down to my level). If that means that we don't run the whole thing together, so be it. Just make sure you are on the same page before you start, and be there for your race partner when they cross the finish line!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Run Like a Girl

I have been quiet since the half marathon. A lot has gone on during the past week. Husband got a nose job last Wednesday and I got to play nurse. Then on Thursday, my birthday, I set out for an easy 4 miler with Prabir and 1.5 miles into our run I decided to body surf the sidewalk along Monument Avenue. It was the first time I have ever fallen when running.

Thankfully I had the brainpower to lift up my chin (saving my face) and not brace myself with my arms (preventing broken wrists). My knees and the heels of my hands, however, did not fare so well. I wanted to finish the run but Prabir insisted that we walk back to the Y and get my wounds taken care of.

Happy birthday to me.

My parents and brother visited for the weekend. Copious amounts of cake were consumed. All was well. But there was no running.

[I had a great picture of my birthday cake but blogger is being a b*tch and
won't upload it right, so use your imagination]

That changed last night. For the first time since the formal Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k training team that I did two years ago, I ran with a running group.

Associated with the HERA Foundation's Run Like a Girl race series, a "RLaG" group meets every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 pm in Richmond's near West End. You can choose a 4 mile or 6 mile route. I found out about the group because I have registered for the upcoming Run Like a Girl 8k trail run at Pocahontas State Park and received an email newsletters (which I actually read for some reason) that highlighted the group runs.

I was probably a little more excited than I should have been. The group runs in an area of Richmond that is far outside of my usual haunting grounds, so I was looking forward to learning some new routes. The run started at 5:30 pm, which is basically the perfect time for me. And I was just happy about the prospect of meeting some new runners and having a group of people around me who could push me and keep me accountable.

The 6 miler group last night ended up consisting of just 5 of us - 4 regulars and myself. I am terrible with names and do not remember anyone's name except for the leader, Judith. They were all great though! A few had just run the Shamrock Half or Full Marathon as well. 3 of the 4 were training for Boston!

As soon as we took off, I knew I was a little bit out of my league. These ladies definitely have a faster pace than I do, but I was mostly keeping up ... until we hit some monster hills in mile 5. I know that I slowed them down (average pace ended up being 8:30 - which a full 30 seconds faster than my usual) but they were very jovial and encouraging throughout the course. Even though the hills literally made me suck wind, I'm glad they were there... makes me realize how much I've been spoiling myself by sticking to the flat Fan and Museum district.

I will definitely be joining them again next Monday for more punishment and company. It will be really good for me to have to step up my pace and run on some tougher courses.

In other news, have you guys heard of these awesome Color Me Rad races? I actually heard of The Color Run first, but I can't go to the Washington DC race and was really bummed about it. Then I found out about the Color Me Rad series, which is coming to Richmond on July 21st.

Even though the date is in July and I hate running in heat (blech!), I am definitely signing up for this bad boy as soon as registration is open! If anyone has participated in one of these series before, I'd love to hear how it went. The only thing I'm kind of worried about it getting home without destroying the interior of my car!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eat: San Antonio Skillet

When I moved in with J, he would talk often about a dish he called "San Antonio Skillet." It involved kielbasa, so I was not willing to try it for a long time. Finally I caved, and now it's one of our go-to dinners when we need something relatively easy and brainless.

Over the past few years as my eating habits got healthier, I made some adjustments to the recipe to make it a bit more healthful as well. That's one of the great things about this one - you can adjust to fit your taste whether it be going with brown rice and low fat kielbasa or kicking up the spiciness by using hot salsa and Rotel tomatoes.

So here it goes.

San Antonio Skillet

from J

Total prep and cook time: 40 minutes (give or take - you can knock off 20 minutes by cooking rice the day before)

1 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)
1 package Polka Kielbasa (I have started to use the light version)
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies  (you choose your spice level - I get mild)
1 jar Salsa or Picante Sauce
1 can pinto beans, drained

Extras: sour cream

First, cook the rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, slice your kielbasa.

...and preheat your electric skillet to 350 with a drizzle of olive oil. If you don't have an electric skillet, I you can use a large saute pan of any kind on the stove over medium heat.

When you're finished slicing and your pan is heated, toss the kielbasa in to cook.

Make sure you flip half way through, or one side of your kielbasa slices will end up being crispy. This happens to me more often than I'd like to admit.

Once the rice is finished cooking, toss it into your skillet along with the beans, salsa, and tomatoes. Stir, then cover and simmer over medium heat until heated through.

J likes to top his with Parmesan cheese and sour cream... I just go for a dollop of sour cream.

This also reheats really well - and the recipe makes far more than 2 people will be able to eat in one sitting. It's one of the few left overs that I will actually eat.

Oh, and don't forget to rinse and recycle your salsa jar and cans, kids!

Save the Earth!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Race Report: Shamrock Anthem Half Marathon!

Well friends, I did it! I somehow managed to run my first ever half marathon in under 2 hours (barely!) with a finish time of 1:59:05!

And you know what? It wasn't that bad! Dare I say, I may have even had fun? At the end I didn't feel like dying or like my legs were going to pop off or anything. Today my legs are a little stiff, but really that's it!

Expo/Packet Pick Up - B

J and I arrived in Virginia Beach for packet pick up on Saturday around 3:30 pm. The pick up was at the Virginia Beach Convention Center which was pretty easy to get to and had plentiful parking.

Virginia Beach Convention Center - kinda pretty!

 Just like at the Virginia is for Lovers 14k, the actual packet pick up area was completely deserted.

I walked right up and picked up my bib and then my bag (a drawstring pouch) and my race t-shirt. No pictures now, there is going to be an entire section on race swag later!

I had one mission for this expo: to obtain a pair of compression sleeves for my calves. Last week after running my 11 miler, my calves were extremely tight for the next few days. Of course I have been reading advice about avoiding injury after long runs for a while, but had stubbornly refused to buy any compression gear. After the calf pain I experienced this past week, I then decided I needed some compression socks and figured that the perfect place to buy them would be the race expo. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me that there would be some vendor there selling them. Wouldn't it make sense? I mean, here are thousands of people about to run half and full marathons and some of them are probably in need of compression garments, right?

Although packet pick up had been deserted, the vendor side of things was decidedly crowded. It seemed to me that perhaps they should have given the vendors more of the space and condensed the packet pick up and t-shirt pick up areas. At any rate, J and I set out on our mission. We got distracted by sunglasses and neon race clothing.

Hey Neon Blonde Runner, I think I found your mecca!
But alas, despite spending more than half an hour and circling the vendor area twice, there were no compression sleeves to be found.

What the heck.

And this is why I'm giving the expo a grade of B.

Race Day Arrival/Parking/Start Area - A

The "A" is really only for 2/3 of this category. After examining the map and experiencing Virginia Beach's horrible traffic patterns the night before when going to dinner, I decided that we would not be attempting to park the car near the start.

Our hotel was 2 miles from the start of the race and at first I had delusions of hoofing the 2 miles, but when I realized it was actually going to be cold in the morning I convinced J to drive me up to the start line area where I would jump out, then he would go back to the hotel and our guaranteed free parking. When he got my mid-race alert text, he would then walk to the finish line (about 1.3 miles from our hotel) and meet me there.

Race morning, I got up at 5:15 am and got ready.

Race Day Outfit (toe to head):
Lululemon Groove Biker Shorts
Lululemon Run: Stay On Course Tank in Glacier Lace
Target C9 Sports Bra

The plan worked out beautifully. Nervous about traffic, we left the hotel at 5:50 am (start time was 7 am). Luckily there was no traffic to be seen, probably because the road closures hadn't started yet. I ate my usual 1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread and drank a Gatorade Prime in the car on the way there. Jason got me from 18th Street (our hotel) to 42nd street by 6:00 am. I jumped out of the car and immediately thought, "Crap. It's really cold."

There was hardly anyone else there at this point so I wandered around for a few minutes trying to find a place that was shielded from the pretty cold breeze that was whipping around. I came across the start line, very sad and empty at the moment:

After taking this picture I decided that I was going to walk to the nearest hotel (The Cavalier) and hang out in the lobby until closer to start. Of course some other early-comers also had this idea, but not too many. I found a relatively peaceful corner and killed some time on my iPhone, then went to the bathroom (ahhhh, nice warm, clean, flushing  indoor bathroom), then stretched. Then killed more time. Then stretched. By now it was started to get more crowded. I betcha The Cavalier really hates Shamrock race weekend and all of the runners who invade its lobby at 6:30 in the morning. I especially felt bad for the people who had the bad luck of having a room on the first floor.

At 6:40 I took advantage of the indoor facilities again, stretched some more, then decided I should walk outside and make my way to my starting corral. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea at about the same time that I did, so there was a huge bottleneck of people trying to get in. I ended up walking down the street parallel to the corrals for 3 blocks, then taking a side street to access my start area.

This race was organized by the same folks who did the Virginia is for Lovers 14k, so I had learned my lesson about corral signs and made sure to get in front  of the sign for Corral 3.

In summary: I can't comment on parking because I didn't dare attempt it. Hanging out in the lobby of the hotel was nice (sorry/THANK YOU Cavalier Hotel), but if I had had to stay outside there were plenty of port o johns available and the lines didn't look terrible. I always appreciate a corraled start and the actual corral areas were large enough that I didn't feel like a sardine.

Course - C

Yet another disappointing course! Call me crazy, but when I go to participate in a race in a city with "Beach" in the name, I kind of expect a good part of the race to actually take place within view of the beach. Especially when said beach has a perfect boardwalk on which to run!

But I digress. Let me be positive first.

The good:
1. Flat. Flat. Flat. I looooooooooove me a flat course.
2. Good course support. For the first few miles and then last few miles there were lots of spectators, which is always a nice thing. Water and gatorade were available every 1.5 miles along with port-o-johns (thankfully I did not have to utilize any of them). The website claims that there were carb-boom energy gels at mile 6 but I sure didn't see them. This could be because I carried my own water and basically tried to steer clear from water stations.
3. Paved with lots of room. For the majority of the course we had at least 2 full lanes of road to run in and even in the beginning there was not a lot of traffic or bunching. This also made it easy to zoom through the water stops, as there was more than enough room for there to be water on both sides of the road and for people to keep running down the center.
4. Nice ending on the boardwalk next to the beach. (Imagine that!) The only time spent actually running on the waterfront was the last .5 miles, but those .5 miles were pretty glorious because there were tons of spectators, the beautiful ocean, and a clear view of the finish line!

The bad:
1. B-o-r-i-n-g. We spent time on a tree lined highway, then a few miles on Ft. Story (yawn). Not very stimulating. Where's the freaking beach????

Actually, I'm gonna say that's all that was bad about it. I was just really disappointed, obviously. Here I had imagined running on the boardwalk with the ocean and beach as my scenery and instead I get a highway, an army base, and more highway.

Finish - A+

The finish was my favorite part (isn't it always, though?). That last .5 mile flat, straight shot to the finish line was just great. I had pulled out my earphones and was looking/listening for J, but was unable to see him. Then I saw the giant race clock on the finish line and it said 2:02:40. I knew I had started 3 minutes behind wave 1 and that if I was going to get in under 2 I needed to book it. So I did! When I crossed the line I was so excited that I forgot to stop my Garmin right away, but when I reached down to shut it off it showed 1:59:17 - meaning I DID IT! I was so excited. Then I heard someone yelling my name and there was Jason on the sideline. I showed him my Garmin and got a quick high 5, then back down the chute.

The chute was large and wasn't overcrowded when I came through. First stop, medal.

How awesome is this medal? I love it.
Then water, gatorade, a race hat, Nature Valley Oat & Honey granola bars, a shamrock shaped sugar cookie, bananas, pretzels, and a Finisher sweatshirt (!). I never do this, but this time I stopped to get my official picture taken (first half marathon, gotta do it!) then made my way out of the chute to find Jason.

Once we located each other, he took some photos for me.

My only teeny tiny complaint about the race finish was that I had signed J up for text alerts so he'd be able to know when I crossed the finish even if he didn't lay eyes on me (and I'd have an immediate official time result) and it took a full hour for the text to finally show up!

I didn't participate in the post-race festival. I don't drink beer, so I had no interest in it. Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'll never have an interest in a post-race festival. When I'm finished all I want to do is drink some water, eat a granola bar, and get to a shower as quickly as possible.

Swag - A+

This race had some pretty impressive swag, in my opinion (as it well should have for the $95 registration fee!)

I got the drawstring bag and short sleeved tech race shirt at the Expo. The shirt is nice, but as usual, I should've sized down (I got a small and should've gone extra small... some day I will learn).

At the finish I got the medal of course, then the technical finishers hat and hoodie sweatshirt. Both are very nice. The hat is super light weight and comfortable - I can see myself wearing it this summer. The sweatshirts were available in sizes XS to XXL and you could get whatever you wanted, so I was able to get that in an extra small and it fits perfectly. Plus it is a hoodie and fleece lined, making it extra comfy.

Overall Grade: A-

I think I would run this race again. In fact, I just might try to run the full marathon here next year. The only thing I would change is I would try to get a hotel closer to the start line (this was my fault - I registered and then procrastinated on the hotel room and as a result everything was sold out). The course itself was disappointing but it was  flat and easy (relatively speaking of course). I believe that the marathoners get a better course that includes more ocean front:

Marathoners, taken from my hotel balcony
Personal Performance: A+

How could I give myself a grade of anything less? Not only did I run my first half, I managed a sub-2:00!

I did a few slightly daring things - I wore my arm warmers for the very first time and this was only the second time wearing my new Ravenna 2s. This could have ended in disaster, but I'm happy to say that the Ravenna 2s are nearly identical to my beloved originals and that the arm warmers turned out to be a new favorite item as well. Once I got warm around mile 4 it was very easy to roll them down and let the air hit my arms.

After much internal debate last week, I decided to run with my iPod. I did, however, pull out my earphones during the last half a mile to fully drink in all of the cheering and hoopla.

My first mile was pretty slow. I was afraid of going too fast and burning out. Eventually I worked into a comfortable pace and just went with whatever was feeling good. Once again, my left hip was bothering me slightly but other than that I felt pretty great. At times my legs got heavy, but I just powered through. I hardly looked at my Garmin at all. I drank my full 12 oz hand held water bottle, finishing it off around mile 12, but only ate 2 of the Swedish Fish that I had brought with me.

I checked in with my Garmin at mile 10 and realized that I had a lot of ground to make up if I was going to sub-2:00. Throughout those first 10 miles I knew that I wasn't running fast enough, but I honestly stopped caring. My body felt good, my breathing/cardio was absolutely fine, so I wanted to stick with what I was doing. I was going to finish a freakin' half marathon, so what if it wasn't in under 2 hours?

Then at mile 11 I saw a sign bobbing ahead of me in the crowd of people. At th start, I had been standing next to a pair of pacers who were dressed to the 9s in Irish gear (suspenders, kilts, socks, crazy green glittery glasses, etc). The man had a stick with a sign on the end that said "2:00" on it. They had taken off and were far out of my sight during most of the race. But then I saw that 2:00 sign waving above the heads of the runners ahead of me as I passed the mile 11 flat.

I thought to myself, "If you just catch them and hang with them, you can do this."

So I caught them. And hung with them for much of mile 12. And then something crazy happened. I wanted to run faster than they were. So I did! Then Gaga's "Bad Romance" came on just as I started mile 13 and I knew that I was going to do it. It was my song! How did my iPod know that I needed it right then? Who knows... but with the help of those pacers and Gaga, I ran mile 13 in 8 minutes and 23 seconds!

As I approached the finish and saw that I had just 20 seconds to achieve my goal, I opened it up and went full throttle, absolutely determined. Crossing the line with seconds to spare was an amazing feeling!

I am a half marathon finisher! Can't believe it.

So when's the next one????

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tunes or No Tunes - That is the Question

Can't read my, can't read my, no he can't read my poker face/ So take your siren call and sing all you want, I will not hear what you have to say - cause I need freedom now and I want to know how to live my life as it's meant to be/ Strike a pose there's nothing to it... vogue/  Move b*tch, get out the way, get out the way b*tch, get out the way/ Party rockers in the house tonight, everybody just have a good time/ Shorty had them apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur - the whole club was looking at her. She hit the floor, next thing you know, shorty got low low low low...

Oh hi! Sorry - I was just trying to decide which of my favorite running anthems need to be on my iPod for the half marathon, which is now less than 48 hours away.

I've got music on the brain thanks to Skinny Runner's recent awesome post about how to run without music. It's like she was reading my mind because lately I've been really trying to wean myself off of the iPod with some level of success and now I'm really not sure whether I want to use one on Sunday or not. I'm torn.

When I first started to run I felt like I had to have music blaring in my ears if I was doing a solo run, whether it was around the Y track, on the treadmill, or outside. If I forgot my iPod or it died mid-run or was otherwise not working for whatever reason, I sometimes would just not run at all. The thought of having nothing to distract me from the fact that I felt like I was going to keel over any second seemed like torture.

Strangely, even though I was completely dependent on having music during solo runs, I did not use an iPod for my first races and I did not use one when I was running with my training group. It was really easy to not use an iPod at the Monument Avenue 10k. There are bands lined up every few hundred feet, thousands and thousands of spectators, and lots of other runners to chat with - so there are plenty of distractions.

But then I ran a few smaller races where there weren't bands, or spectators cheering, or friends running with me. Without those things, I did not enjoy the race as much so I started wearing my Shuffle again. Eventually I found myself once again dependent upon music to keep me motivated. And I started doing stupid things, like running in downtown Richmond by myself with headphones on.

After the Sherry Arnold incident, running safety became a hot topic on the running blogs that I read and I realized that I was really being stupid when it came to running outside with my music at full volume. So I started weaning myself off and now I can run with or without tunes, even though sometimes I need it. When I am in a funk and positively do not feel like running, I use music to get me going. For instance, when my arches hurt in February, the only thing that got me through was Gaga.  If I'm indoors at the track or on the treadmill, I still have to have the music.

So now I'm debating what to do for this weekend. I listened to music at the 14k in February and when I was really feeling tired, just the right song came on to pump me up again. But then again, I enjoy interacting with other runners and hearing spectators and just being nosy and over hearing the weird conversations people have when they are running races.

And I don't want to miss it if my husband actually cheers/yells for me at the finish line (for once).

Do you run with or without music?
Will my husband break his usual stoic attitude and actually cheer for me this weekend?
A big gold star to anyone who can identify the songs in the first paragraph.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Warm Weather Whining

Today is March 14.

With that in mind, please observe the following 10 day weather forecast:

I live in Richmond, Virginia. NOT Florida or Texas or California or any of those southern states where this weather is normal for March.

And now, a warning: I'm going to whine.

I want my 50s and 60s back!!!!!!!

Yes, I realize that I am one of the very few people who are actually unhappy about the fact that we never really had a winter here and that we are apparently skipping over spring too and headed straight to summer.

The thing is, I like winter. For a lot of reasons, but two major ones being I hate to sweat and therefore, I love to run in the cold. I live for October through April (normally) when I can go outside and run without completely soaking my clothing, clogging every pore on my body, and smelling like... well... sweat. The warm weather also means that all of the trees and grass are budding, which means allergies, which means that running outside can result in a sneezing attack that lasts for the rest of the week. Fun times.

This year I am going to try  to condition myself to start to not absolutely hate every minute of an outdoor run that takes place in 70*+ temperatures. Today, for instance, I've been trying to talk myself into doing my short 4 miler outside even though the forecast during my running time is calling for 77*. Most of me wants to just say screw it and go to the indoor track at the Y, with its wonderful climate control and allergen-free atmosphere.

But I won't. I know that the only way to get used to running in warmer weather is to do it. So even though I hate it and dread the though, I'll go ahead and sweat my butt off tonight.


Does anyone else hate to run in the warm weather too? Am I the only weirdo who wishes winter lasted longer?

Spring, can't you just wait your turn? Just give me a few more weeks of "winter". I'm not ready yet.

In other news, I loved this month's issue of Runner's World, the "weight loss special." Mainly because of this photo associated with an article about how to lose weight while running:

Haha look - she's being chased by my two favorite food groups:
fried potatoes and cake! 
 I literally laughed out loud when I saw this photo. The article is full of great advice, most of which I definitely don't follow (for instance: Don't use running as an excuse to then treat yourself to cupcakes and french fries or other unhealthy foods)... yet still I have managed to lose weight. Guess I'm lucky!

Just looking at that picture makes me want a cupcake really badly... I guess the Savannah Smiles Girl Scout cookies that I have stashed will have to do.

The Races + Places section of this issue was also exciting as it featured a race that is near and dear to my heart - the Monument Avenue 10k!

Which, of course, takes place right here in little old Richmond. It's so exciting to see this great event featured! It's like the streets that I pound week in and week out are now celebrities!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Week in Running

I've been a little bit M.I.A. lately. Sorry about that. What happened is that I write for a living and I had a lot of work writing going on that was sucking up all of my brain power. So the last thing that I wanted to do when I wasn't working was write some more.

So here is quick catch up.

Tuesday: 4

Wednesday: 6

Friday: 11

Saturday: 2.7

Total: 23.7

Not only did the week contain my longest run ever (!), I also logged the most miles ever in a week and I got to do a "fun run" with my good buddy, hot mother runner Ms. Marcey.

Bad iPhone self-portrait. Sorry. <3 you Marcey!
Now I'm less than a week away from the half marathon. Surprisingly, I feel pretty calm and prepared. I've completed over 260 miles of training for this thing. I'm ready for it. This week I'm going to take it pretty easy, probably running just 3 or 4 miles three nights for a total of 11-12ish miles.

So far the weather is looking awesome. Unlike the Virginia is for Lovers 14k, I am not worried at all about the forecast.

Let me just report briefly on the 11 miler. Prabir had to bail on me for this little thing called SXSW (you know, just a little music festival down in Texas that his band Goldrush is playing this year). I guess I can forgive him.

The evening was perfect though. When I started out it was about 63 degrees with a little breeze. The course I had planned took me up and back the Main Street Gauntlet of Restaurants for the first 5.5 miles or so, then a loop back out Monument Avenue and back to the Downtown Y for the last leg. The problem was that I forgot what my turn around point was on Monument Avenue... sooooo I ended up running about .15 miles too far down Monument.

Usually this wouldn't be a problem and it doesn't sound like a lot (.3 extra miles). But let me tell you, when my Garmin beeped 11 miles, I was not taking one. more. step. It beeped and I was still 6 blocks away from the Y and it had turned cold and windy, so I was pretty darn cold during that power walk back to my car.

But I did it. I ran 11 miles and it actually didn't feel terrible. As usual, miles 2, 3, 6, and 7 felt hard at times. The last 2 miles felt fine.  Shockingly fine.

Mile 10 was a little on the slow side because I stopped to stretch for a few seconds. For some reason, my Garmin suddenly stopped tracking my moving pace vs. elapsed time. I didn't hit many stop lights during the 11 miles, but I did stop briefly to stretch a few times, so I think my actual moving time was closer to 1:40. If I manage to run this pace on Sunday, I just might  run a sub 2:00 half.

We'll see. At this point, I'll just be happy to finish!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gear Review: Brooks PureFlow Shoe

After the Virginia is for Lovers 14k, my intense case of arch pain had me convinced that I needed a new pair of running shoes. My beloved, trusty Brooks Ravennas have about 400 miles on them.

They are the "original" version - Brooks is now up to the Ravenna 3, but I love the original so much that I was afraid to try the new ones (you know, the whole "create of habit" problem that I have). When I went to replace my very first pair and found they had moved on to Ravenna 2 I freaked out and scoured the Internet until I found a pair of the originals at some random website and promptly purchased them. I toyed with the idea of buying 3 pairs and stocking up (they were on clearance), but my cheap side won out and I didn't.
I regre that decision, because this time it was downright impossible to find the original Ravenna in my size. When this tragedy struck, it just so happened that my issue of Runner's World included the Spring 2012 Shoe Guide. So I sat down and actually read that section for once. It was in that article that I came across the Brooks PureFlow:

The reviews for this shoe were positively glowing - in fact, Runner's World named it one of their Best Buys. When I used the "shoe finder" flow chart (which I'm sure is just oh-so-accurate...) that accompanied the article, it pointed right to the PureFlow. So, I decided to give the shoe a closer look on the Brooks website. The user reviews there were all pretty positive. However, I was still unsure, so I decided to chat with one of their representatives before buying to get their opinion on what was going on with my arch and whether or not the PureFlow might be a viable option for me.

After my chat with the Brooks fellow, I ordered up the shoes. They arrived on February 21, right around the time when my arches were really bothering me and just in time for a scheduled 9 mile run. I opted, however, to not try them out for the first time on a long run. Instead, I gave them their maiden run on the indoor track at the Y.

At first, they felt strange to me. They are pretty minimalist shoes, which Ravenna definitely are not. The material on the topside of the shoe is so thin and light that you can see your socks through them (I have an orange stripe on my socks and it was glaring at me!). The only support that I felt was the elastic band midfoot - you can see it underneath the Brooks logo in the photo above. At first it was a weird sensation, and I found that it made my foot feel constricted even when I left the laces as loose as possible.

An immediate plus was the cushioning. Wow! These things really felt like walking on air. When I was doing my 5 mile tempo run around the Y track, it went from feeling like I wasn't wearing any shoes at all to feeling like I had just the right amount of support when I needed it. The only problem I felt was that the 4th and 5th toes of my right foot were rubbing the inside of the shoe box. This often happens to me... I guess my feet are wide at the base of the toes or something. I also couldn't tell if that was happening only because of the grading on the corners of the indoor track. I was on the fence about whether they would work out or not.

A 6 mile outdoor tempo run went slightly better. I didn't get the rubbing on my toes, but I did have some arch pain. Still a toss up! What ended up eliminating these shoes was last week's 10 mile run. Miles 7 and 8 took place on uneven cobblestone sidewalks (probably not very smart but hey, it's Richmond) and as I ran I was noticing that my left ankle was just dropping all over the place - rolling inwards, outwards - everywhere but straight up and down This led to serious arch pain in my left foot. To make matters worse, the 4th and 5th toes of my right foot were beginning to be rubbed so raw that they were going numb.  When I got home and got the shoes off, my poor toes looked as red as the Swedish Fish I'd been munching on during the run. I was shocked that I didn't have blisters.

Here is the run down (punny!) of my review in easier-to-digest format:

  • Lightweight
  • Price is Right - $70
  • Lots of cushioning, especially in the heel
  • A cool mid foot support that you don't even notice is there (in a good way)
  • Very breathable

  • Not enough stability for high arches
  • Toebox seemed a little more narrow than my Ravenna, resulting in rubbing
  • Not wild about the color combo... the mainly white pair made my size 9 feet look like boats
  • If you step in a puddle or it starts to rain, your feet are going to get SOAKED

So they are going back. I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of Ravenna 2's - which luckily (?) are being replaced by the Ravenna 3 so they are on sale for $65. Initially I tried to get the neon yellow detailed ones, but they were out of my size (figures), so I ended up with these instead:

They haven't come in yet, so I'm back to my trusty Ravennas for now. I also ordered up some ankle length compression socks from Pro Compression thanks to Skinny Runner, who posted a coupon code for 20% off. I figure these might help support my arches and my calves too. I wanted to get some fun neon green ones, but restarined myself and got practical white ones. Y-a-w-n.

Tonight I'm headed out but don't really have anything particular in mind. This week is a little bit crazy so other than my scheduled 11 mile long run, I didn't really faithfully put Training Schedule into my calendar, figuring I'll just fit in miles whenever I can.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Smells and the City

Last night I totally kicked butt on my longest ever non-race run!

And I learned some important lessons.

So let's get to it!

Let's be honest - I've been dreading this training week ever since I put it on my schedule three months ago. The dreaded 10 mile long run week. The last (and only) other time I've run 10 miles was the Army 10 Miler in Washington, DC in October and it was not pretty. In fact, when I was finished I posted this status update on my Facebook:

"Well... I think that 10 miles may be the furthest I ever run. Lord. Have. Mercy. (unofficial time 1:52:35)"

After I recovered from that terrible experience, I analyzed what I think  went wrong (bad choice of pre-race food, not enough water before the race, and taking an Advil before the race) and now try to make sure that I avoid those things. I was determined that this 10 miler would be better. So, I planned my "fuel" very carefully: 1/2 peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread at noon, a smoothie with pre-workout enhancer around 2:30 (unplanned bag of Pirate's Booty at 2:30... whoops), lots of water between 3:00 and 4:30, and Swedish Fish for the run itself.


The crazy "winter" weather in Richmond has continued - and believe me I use the term "winter" very  loosely. Yesterday's high was in the upper 70's. Yes, the upper 70's on March 1. I wasn't very thrilled about that because, as I've mentioned before, I hate sweating and I hate running when it is anything that could be called warm.

When Prabir and I met outside of the Y at 4:55ish it was 70 degrees with a slight breeze. I wish I had thought to take my phone into the Y to take an illegal locker room pic because even if I wasn't feeling the 10 miler I was about to do in the 70 degree weather, I was totally feeling my outfit. I wore my new sneaks (which, sadly, are going to have to go back, more on that later), my herringbone gray Lulu shorts, and my the new Paris Pink Striped Cool Racerback that I bought on Fat Tuesday with a black sports bra underneath. It was super cute. I also have to say that the Striped Ribbed Racerback is the  most comfortable running shirt that I have ever run in. Since it was 70 degrees, I was sweating buckets, but I never once felt overly hot or like my shirt was getting damp. A real miracle.

Anyways, the first 6 miles of the run were pretty uneventful. Prabir and I talked a lot, which was a good thing. We established that my new nickname is K.Prime and that Prabir's name is very fun to say backwards (Ribarp). When I was getting kind of delirious during mile 4, every time Prabir started to talk I would say "RIBARP!" and interrupt him. It was kind of ridiculous - I was like an annoying drunk person that you just want to punch.

Sorry about that, Prabs. I was just trying to distract myself from the fact that it felt like my stomach was about to explode while my left foot simultaneously popped off.

During miles 4 and 5 I kind of felt like death and wanted to quit, but we ran the whole thing. I designed the 10 mile route in such a way that it was out and back for 6 miles, then the last 4 miles were a loop back out so if Prabir didn't want to hang for the full 10, we could easily part at the 6 mile mark, which we did.

After a high five, I left Prabir and his OMK (Old Man Knee) and set out to finish up. By this time the sun had all but set and it was feeling cooler. In fact, I would say I got a second wind and felt pretty darn good during miles 6 and 7. Except for one thing. This is where I learned an important lesson about running in the city (and where the title of this post finally makes sense).

The first leg of the run had been up and down Monument Avenue, which, while pretty, is also bereft of restaurants. However, I had stupidly planned the last 4 miles of my 10 mile dinner-time run down a stretch of Main Street that includes nearly twenty restaurants.

Don't believe me? Here's a list that's not even completely inclusive: City Dogs, Mulligans Sports Grille, Baja Bean Company, Home Team Grille, Six Burner Restaurant, Bacchus, Sidewalk Cafe, Rowland Fine Dining, Delux, Sticky Rice, F.W. Sullivan's, 3 Monkey's Bar & Grille, Avalon, Roxy Cafe, Piccola Pizza & Subs, and Star-Lite Lounge.

Because it was so beautiful, many of them had thrown open their windows and opened outdoor seating. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than running the last half of your 10 miler past patio after patio of people happily noshing on all kinds of delicious delicacies. Even worse than seeing them eating is all of the amazing smells of deep fried goodness, pizza, coffee, and Chinese food that waft to you.

Torture. Complete. Torture.

In the future I will not be taking that route again. The Swedish Fish that I was carrying with me did nothing to quell my cravings after inhaling all of the delicious aromas wafting from the restaurants of Main Street.

Here's the report from the Almighty Garmin.

This completely shatters my only other 10 mile time (1:49:31) by more than 15 minutes. While I was tired and absolutely covered with a thin layer of salt by the time I got back to my car, I didn't feel too bad. After the Army 10 Miler I felt like death. So, all in all, I'd have to say I've come pretty far in the last few months!

Next week brings my longest run ever - 11 miles. That will be the last long run of my half marathon training before my taper week leading up to the race. It's going to take some creative course planning to avoid running down Main Street during that one, but I will definitely not be running the restaurant gauntlet again.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Resolution Check In


Total through February 29

January: 47 miles
February: 72 miles

Total for the year: 119 miles
Fun fact: It took me until late April last year to run that many miles!


January Books
Riggs, Ransom - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Bray, Libba - A Great and Terrible Beauty

February Books
Moran, Michelle - Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

I've been reading Storm of Swords (the third book in Song of Ice and Fire) since the beginning of the month, but it is SO LONG that I'm only 45% of the way through!

Movies (no resolution; just to keep track)
The Artist