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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Get My Heart Racing

Someone left a comment on my racing page that I need to sign up for more races this year, seeing as though I don’t have anything listed after my half marathon debut (19 days! Look out racing world….).  I couldn’t agree more, and in fact, I already have a few in mind.

The issue? Money.  My husband and I have our spring break trip coming up.  Yes, in a month from now I’ll have achieved two goals- the half marathon and FINALLY making it to my Southwestern National Parks! But between hotels, camp sites, flights, rental cars, food and other fun excursions on the trip, I’m a little tapped out.  And man, races are expensive.

But, I’m not completely deterred.  I’ve got the bug.  What can I say? I love having a goal. So here’s what I’ve been looking at.

First, there’s the George Washington Parkway Classic.  I really want to do this 10 miler because it’s my usual long run route, without the traffic.  The Parkway is beautiful, and I’d love the opportunity to run it without speeding cars and all that.  I’ve pretty much decided to do it- I was apprehensive earlier because I haven’t raced all that much, and wasn’t sure it would be a good idea so soon after my first half.  Plus, I’ll be OUT WEST for two of the three weeks prior and I won’t be fitting in any training.  But I’ve been overcome with a ‘seize the moment’ mentality of late and figure why put off for next year what I can do now.  Still…the fee is a little much at the moment.  So in a few weeks, when the next paycheck comes round, if the race isn’t full yet, I’ll do it.  If it’s fully subscribed, well I’ll just take it as a sign as something to look forward to next year.

Now, for my next half! I know, I know, I probably should wait to actually run one to decide whether or not I want to do it again.  But I have a feeling I’ll want to.  I’ve enjoyed the training, especially the long runs.  So why wouldn’t I enjoy the race as well?

My thinking? A Chicago race.  I’ve only been once, when I was 12.  And more importantly, my youngest sister moved there almost two years ago to get her PhD in school psychology- yeah, she’s pretty smart.  I promised her I would go visit, but last year wasn’t an option since it was my last year of law school and the bar exam.  I also said I wouldn’t go in the winter.  I already have to experience Cleveland winters occasionally as my husband’s roots are there.  One Great Lakes tundra is enough, thank you.

I thought a race would be a great thing to wrap into the visit, and would commit me to finally going.  It looks like there are two halves there- one in June, and one in September. Both have pluses and minuses

June Race
Pros: Get to visit my sister sooner, have a great spring race to look forward to, allows me to avoid the potential misery of training during the DC summers.
Cons: Trying to come up with the racing fee and paying for a flight in the next couple weeks.  Also, if I do that flight now, I’ll probably have to forgo going to my parents’ over Memorial Day, a bit of a tradition for me.

September Race
Pros: more time to train, something to look forward to in the fall, and more time to budget appropriately.
Cons: Timing! First, I’m not hot on the idea of training in the summer here, as mentioned above.  I mean, last summer it was often +80 degrees at 5:30 am when I would go for my run.  Also, its only a few days after the political nominating conventions- my husband will be covering both and hence will be gone for two weeks at least prior.  Not sure that I want to extend our time apart.

Some things to think about.  I’d also love suggestions for races to do- any must-do ones? I’m not interested in marathons, but anything below that distance is a possibility.  Also, given that my husband will be traveling covering the campaigns a bit, traveling isn’t as much of an option this year but I’d still like to know about them. And I definitely want to know about great local races, in particular in rural Virginia- I love it out there!

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Who Needs Sleep?

I need sleep.  I’m not one of those people who does well without it.  I mean, I manage, but I hate how I feel all day.  I love the alertness, calm and energy that comes from being well-rested.  Sleep is my friend, not my enemy as many people seem to view it in our harried society.

Sometimes, though, my body thinks that it doesn’t need sleep.  I’m not sure why.  Sometimes it’s obvious- I’m anxious about something, or the sleeping conditions aren’t right for me.  But often times, I’ll go through a bout of mild insomnia that doesn’t make any sense.  I spent years, actually, having erratic sleeping patterns.  Not outright insomnia, like one of my sisters has, but just irregular sleep.  I did everything that the experts recommend except exercise regularly.  And I must admit- ever since I’ve been a regular fitness fanatic, the episodes have been few and far between.  In fact, it’s one of the biggest motivators to keep exercising at the rate I am- nothing beats a good night sleep!

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I’m having one of my troubling sleep spells and I have no idea why.  It started last week, so I initially chalked it up to the three-day weekend throwing me off.  It’s not like I haven’t slept at all since then, and Sunday was actually a terrific slumber.  This may have something to do with the fact that I also had my longest run ever- a great 11 mile trek through Old Town down the Mount Vernon Trail and back.  It was beautiful weather, and my body felt good.  My legs were hurting at the end, but I walked around a bit after I was done, diligently stretched and foam rolled.  And had a great night sleep.  And my legs are still feeling happy.  So is my body saying that I need to run 11 miles every day in order to sleep well? (Hehe).

But last night, I barely slept, for whatever reason.  I was tired when I went to bed…but just couldn’t get my brain to shut down.  I had tried to reserve a spot for spin class at 6 am, but there was a wait list which surprised me- every other week I’ve just walked in and gotten a bike.  So I was a little apprehensive about the thought of getting up uber early and driving over only to not have a spot.  I also got super hot and kept kicking the covers off.  I also had ‘Born this Way’ stuck in my head- not exactly a ‘relaxation song.’

Finally, sometime around midnight, I turned off my 5:15 am alarm.  I was still getting up at 5:45, our normal time.  But I decided that not only was spin not worth it, my husband deserved a little extra sleep at this point since he has to work late tonight and then is off on work travel tomorrow.  I would feel really bad getting him up early, only to come back sometime shortly after 6 because I couldn’t get into spin. 

Well, my husband woke up with a migraine this morning anyway, so it’s actually good that I ditched the spinning.  I would feel guilty leaving him there to suffer.  So for the second morning in a row, I didn’t work out but instead stretched for about 25 minutes both days, which I think is doing wonders for my legs’ recovery.  I also decided that instead of ANOTHER rest day, which would make me grumpy, I’d try to squeeze in a lunch time Mall run and some strength training. I like to think of it as tough love- my body may be acting out, but it still must fulfill its responsibilities.  I don’t want to fall into a troubling cycle of not working out because I didn’t sleep, and not sleeping because I didn’t work out, which is what I used to do.  Besides, I have a half marathon to still prepare for!

The three-mile jog was great- it was a beautiful ‘winter’ day again and aside from being tired my body once again felt good.  I did not get to do any toning exercises though because I was STARVING when I got back- another pleasant side effect of sleep deprivation, I’ve found.  But at least I got something in.  I’m nervous about the possibility of no cross training this week (I can’t figure out how to fit in another spin class), but I like that I was able to enjoy the weather and I think spacing my weekday runs out, instead of the back to back on Thursday and Friday as I initially planned, will be smarter considering I’m facing my final long run of 12 miles this weekend (woohoo!). 

So, to end this long rant, I’m annoyed because my work-outs haven’t gone exactly as planned in the last week and for not what I deem a ‘good reason’.  However I have been lucky enough to move things around, and given how good my body is feeling otherwise, maybe the alternate schedule is more what my body needs as my half marathon training enters its final phase.  We shall see- hopefully my body gets its act together soon.  It usually does as long as I just let it run its course and maintain an otherwise normal routine for myself.  I’m going to need a well-rested body for my first half! 

Am I totally weird, or does this also happen to others?

A Pleasant Surprise

I woke up tired this morning.  I hadn’t slept well the last two nights.  Not for any reason in particular, I’m just a light sleeper and very sensitive to changes in my sleep patterns, so among other things the three day weekend threw me a bit.  Combine that with the insanely early spin class yesterday, and my body just wasn’t on top of its game.

So, I put on my running clothes, telling myself that 1) You need to get this run in if you want to be ready for your half that you’re starting to ruminate on far too much, 2) You’ll feel more awake all day than if you skip it, and 3) just do four miles instead of five.  I was expecting a lackluster run but would be satisfied knowing that I got in the miles, and that’s always worth it.

I decided to bust out the iPod for the first time in a while, figuring I could use some extra help to push me through.  It was warmer than anticipated when I took the dogs out, so I quickly changed into my lighter baseball hat and pull-over instead of my jacket and fleece beenie. 

(Side note: while I am enjoying a mild winter, it’s making it REALLY difficult to lay out a running outfit the night before. I’ve wasted so much time in the morning coming back in the apartment and changing into different clothes because the weather is never as warm or cold as I think it will be. It defeats the purpose of pre-planning! And as much as the sticky summer running weather here is not my favorite, at least my clothing decisions are minimal. Ok, rant over.)

I was off.  To my great pleasure, the run was pretty great! It felt almost effortless.  Nothing felt stiff, nothing felt sore, and I immediately felt energized.  My iPod seemed to read my mind (for once) and played all my embarrasing Top 40 and club songs that really set the pace. (And somewhere, my husband is cringing at the mention of my running list content. What can I say- Taio Cruz and the Killers CAN co-exsist in the same space.)

I came back with a much better outlook for my day, not fearful that I would be out of it and non-productive at work (I could have been a bit more productive, but that’s beside the point).  I even went through with the planned lower body strength training that I was considering skipping when I initially woke, which also went really well, I ended up adding in extra reps of some exercises. 

Running to the rescue, once again!

It does look like I will be switching up my schedule a bit in the days ahead, however.  I’m not sure if my Friday Mall run will work out if it’s as stormy as Capitol Weather Gang is predicting.  But that’s ok- that’s a non-essential run, I do it because I find my long runs are of better quality when I do a few easy miles the day before, but it’s not super necessary.  I am also considering switching up my long run to Sunday because Saturday may have pretty nasty winds.  I know some people run no matter what weather, and I definitely would if I had no choice.  But if I have the flexibility, I might as well go when I’ll enjoy it.  Hope everyone else also had a great work out today. 

Fitness for the Mind: ” In a marvelous public relations stunt, Roosevelt wrote a letter to another president: he wrote a letter to whoever would be president in 1956, recommending that the 18-month-old son of downed pilot/hero Captain Colin P. Kelly Jr. for appointment to West Point, 15 years hence.” (I think that’s seriously cool.)

– December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World

By: Craig Shirley

Spinning up a Sweat

I’m not a big sweater.  I’m not one of those people who leave huge sweat marks on the machines, whose clothes are soaked through, or hair is plastered to her forehead.  It’s not indicative of how hard I work out- when I was in high school and in my dance troop, I was in practice 2-3 hours a day and it was the same thing.  My face turns beet red, and the intensity of my work out can be measured in how long my face stays red afterwards, not how much I can wring out of my hair.  The exception of course is our charming DC summers- no matter what time of day, I’ll sweat.  Let’s face it, you sweat just for thinking about going outside in this swamp.

That’s one reason I know that spinning is a phenomenal work out.  I actually use my towel, and I have to pull my hair off my neck.  I’m still not as soaked as many others in class, but for me it’s the biggest sweat-inducing exercise I do indoors. And my face stays red for at least an hour.

I love spinning, but I do not look this happy during class. It's a love/hate thing, and my face usually focuses on the hate.

I returned to spinning last week after neglecting my class pass and risking losing a lot of money.  But that’s not why I went back, although it would be a perfectly good reason.  I had started spinning around the same time I began ramping up my running last fall.  I had always wanted to try it because my sister, a fitness fanatic, raved about it.  And I really enjoyed it, although it was really hard at first.  But after five or six weeks, I lost my motivation.  It was more that I just really wanted to run all the time- when I woke up in the morning I wanted to go for a run, not drive over to the spinning studio. So that’s what I did.

Then, as I’ve documented, my left knee started hurting a couple of weeks ago in the midst of my Rock ‘n’ Roll training.  Knowing the importance of cross training, and feeling like this was the sports gods sending me an early warning, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to spinning.

I’m really glad I did.  Today was week two of spinning, and I feel a renewed thrill from it.  I was really looking forward to it this morning, despite having to get up at 5:15 am for the 6:00 am class.  I love the intense endorphin high and total relaxation that permeates my body all day.  My knee also loves it- I can almost hear it sigh with pleasure.  But I think what I like best is that I feel like I breathe better all day- more deeply, more clearly, more evenly (not sure if that last part makes sense).

If you live in the Alexandria area and think you want to try spinning, I go to Cycle Studio in Potomac Yards, near Braddock Station.  It’s a cool boutique studio that combines spinning, yoga and strength training for a wide variety of classes to grab anyone’s attention and keep you challenged. They also have a nice beginners class to teach you the basics if you’re too intimidated by the uber-fit cyclists in class, like I was and still am.  I’ve only done pure spinning because that’s what fits with my schedule (read: the annoying morning person) but I hope to try others eventually.  Also, starting just today, Groupon is offering a fabulous deal- either $19 for three classes or $35 for 6.  That’s a HUGE savings, so take advantage of it if you’re curious (I swear, I don’t work there).

Counting Down

The Rock ‘n’ Roll half is getting really close! Less than a month now! I am starting to get a little nervous, especially after my less than stellar 10K this weekend.  Plus I’m a bit unsure about the portion of the course where we’re suppose to run from Dupont Circle up to Woodley Park- that’s a big hill! At least it’s in the beginning of the run, but still.  Luckily I’ve had to do some hills during long runs, usually when I run from my apartment, through Old Town and down the Mount Vernon trail.  The last two miles or so are all uphill.

I think what I have to work to get through my head is that it doesn’t matter what my time is, or if I have to walk some or even a substantial part of the run.  The point is that I’m going to finish. I know I will, there’s no doubt about that.  I’ve wanted to do a half marathon since college, but during law school when I was not running at all I figured that was a pipe dream.  Now I’m so close to achieving it, and I love when I can ‘check’ something off the life to-do list. That’s my goal, and that is what needs to be my focus.  All other aspirations are future bucket list items that can wait.

So now it’s time to zero in on the end game.  My knee is better and I’m taking better care of myself to make sure that it stays that way until the race.  I’m cross training more and integrating spinning back into my routine.  It’s tough getting up at 5:15 am for a 6 am class, but I felt so great after last week’s class. Also planning on lots of consistent yoga, stretching and FOAM ROLLING!

I’m also not going to worry about speedwork for the remainder of my training, and just focus on getting miles in.  I know not to overdo it mileage wise, but I also know it’s better to get the stamina than worry about pace.  Once the race is done and I’m back from Spring Break, I might start focusing on trying to improve my speed.  Besides, I need my first race time to have a baseline to build upon, right?

With that said, here’s the plan for the third to last week of training (gulp):

Today: Three mile run, three sets of plank, side plank and push-ups
Tuesday: Spin class, legs and core strength training
Wednesday: four or five mile morning run, core and upper body strength training in afternoon
Thursday: either yoga or self-stretch at home; lower body strength training in afternoon
Friday: Power Hour Yoga in the morning; three mile afternoon run around Mall
Saturday: Long run- goal is 11 miles!
Sunday: Rest, maybe yoga

Hope everyone had a great long weekend, have a great short week!

Fitness for the Mind: ” At some of those restaurants and at others across the country, they were in the process of changing their menus and ‘rechristening Italian spaghetti’ as ‘Liberty Noodles.'” (S0 freedom fries weren’t a 9-11 original.)

-December 1941: Thirty One Days that Change America and Saved the World

By: Craig Shirley

A Day of Firsts

Here is my first race recap, about my first 10K.  This morning, I ran the George Washington Birthday Classic 10K just down the road from my apartment in Alexandria.  This was partially why I chose the race- can’t beat the location for me.

I had initially signed up for the race thinking it would be part of a step down week.  Now it’s the end of a two-week running reduction after my left knee started acting up a few days after my last long run and after a fast 5 miler.  I was considering skipping the race to do a long run after taking last weekend off, but my husband convinced me to do it.  And I’m glad I did- and not just because I got a pretty nice long-sleeved for a relatively cheap race!

When I got up to take the dogs out this morning, it was pretty cold but I could tell it would warm up quickly.  So, here’s the ensemble I settled on pre-race:

I'd like to think Jack is thinking how proud he is of me, but he's probably just glad it's not him. He's not a big runner.

To illustrate how close it was for me, I left my apartment at 7:45 for an 8:00 am start, and still had a couple minutes to warm up a bit, although I probably could have used a little more.  The race was put on by Pacers, my running store (and sometimes addiction) that puts on many races in our area.  They do know what they’re doing, it was really well organized.

The race started behind the U.S Patent Office in the Carlyle are of Alexandria, adjacent to Old Town.  It was just a straight route down Eisenhower Avenue and back.  Pretty flat too, aside from a small incline at the beginning and end of the run for the ramp. It wasn’t the most scenic route- I-495 flanked us on one side, and the Metro and other industrial type buildings on the other- but I actually enjoyed running through an area I’ve drive down many times and noticing things I miss in the car.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself! Not only was it well organized, but it wasn’t as crowded as other races I’ve done, so I felt like there was plenty of room for me to move.  It was a beautiful morning and in the ’40’s- ideal running weather for this girl.  It also just felt great participating- I think I needed this as a little jolt for my running routine, where I generally run by myself.  And I got to try Muscle Milk at the end, which was tasty.

This was the first race I ran completely sans headphones.  Didn’t even bother to bring the iPod.  In previous races, I always had it as a safety net, but realized that I never actually listened to it much during the race since you need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  Plus you just get so focused on the race itself, I just haven’t needed music.  Since my daily running is now generally iPod-less, I also wanted to try in a race.  And this will be the way to go for now on- I just prefer it.  I felt like I experienced the race more.  But I don’t hold it against the runners who have their iPod’s.  If you need music, by all means use it.  One downfall I noticed- hearing other people breathe really heavily.  I don’t know why but it would freak me out and convince me to run slower, even if I wasn’t panting particularly hard.  Also, there was someone who kept coughing after the water station on mile 2/4.  That was a little annoying.

My finish was a little disappointing 1:00:00-ish, which translated to a 9:47 pace.  This means I beat my lesser goal of under 10:00 miles, but I had been secretly hoping to get down around a 9:30 pace.  But I need to keep this in perspective.  It was my first 10K, and it felt really good to run.  My legs were a little tight through out, so that may have been an issue.

But even if not- I didn’t really start running again until the end of last September.  I had never been a fast runner, fast doesn’t come naturally to me.  And as my husband pointed out, I have short legs that work against speed- my fast is really slow for leggy people.  Given that, starting off racing in this range is a decent starting place.  Plus, at this point in my racing career (meaning early), I just need to aim for finishing.

And even with this less than stellar finish, I can feel my body is stronger than it was this fall.  I first noticed after spinning this past Tuesday morning, my first class since October.  My legs were tired, but they didn’t feel like they wanted to fall off as with my initial classes this fall. 

After today’s race, once I stretched stretching and foam rolled, I felt really good.  This is an improvement over the 5K, Turkey Trot 5 miler and the Hot Chocolate races from the fall, and after my of my long runs for the Hot Chocolate race.  I would feel really drained and just lay around for most of the afternoon after these.  Not to mention I’d feel sore.  Today I was able to run a bunch of errands and take the boys to the dog park, no problem.  So that means my body is improving, and running is becoming easier. 

Sometimes it’s important not to focus on pace or mileage, but instead on the strength, stamina and overall improved well-being to our health.

Have a great long weekend, everyone.

I’ve been tagged!

Another day, another Random 11 Things list.  I’m sure you’ve all seen them by now.  The basic rules are: Post the rules, list 11 random facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions from the person who tagged you, come up with your own questions, and tag some other people.  I do like this idea, but I fear it’s starting to be over-exposed.  So I’m going to do the first two- list some randomness about me, and then answer the questions posed to me by Kristen at the Fit Chick Dairies, a really entertaining blog with a beautiful story about how she met her husband (check out her 11 Random Things!).  But I’m frankly too brain dead from work to come up with my own questions, and I don’t have the extensive social network yet to tag many people who haven’t already been tagged (some people have already been tagged twice).  So here we go- tomorrow, back to my workout musings, which is getting back on track!

Who Am I, in 11 things or less….

1) I don’t like oatmeal.  This feels like a sacrilegious statement in the healthy living world, but I’ve tried all sorts of different recipes and types of oats, and I just can’t warm up to it.  Can I still be a fitness blogger?

2) When I was really young, like 4 years old, I wanted to be a nurse.  Then, around age 10, I developed a love of politics and the news (I know, what a weird kid, but I followed the ’94 election really closely!), so I decided I wanted to be the next Katie Couric.  I IDOLIZED her! My senior year of high school, some unfortunate events left me disenchanted with the news, so I decided instead to dedicate my life to social causes.  I’m now an environmental and energy policy wonk with a law degree, which I think I’m much more suited for. (I’ve regained my love of journalism though.  You know, since I married a journalist.)

3) I go through roughly one peanut butter jar every week.  I think I’m partially made of peanut butter.

4) From the first time I came to DC- I was still in GRADE SCHOOL- I knew I wanted to live here when I grew up.  Told you I was a weird kid.

5) My favorite president is Harry Truman.  This fact is prompted by the #underratepresidents survey by the Washington Post today. If you are an American history buff, you must read David McCullough’s biography on ‘Give ’em hell’ Harry.

6) I think I’m the only woman of my generation who did not like, and was frankly baffled by, Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo and Juliet.” I also thought the soundtrack was weird, except for the Cardigans.  But that has more to do with favorite memories with my best friend than the song itself.

7) I gave tours of the Boston Statehouse in high school.

8) I grew up in the oldest house in my town- one room dates back to 1737.

9) My two sisters and I all had the same middle name.  Until I got married, and made my maiden name my middle name.

10) Strollers look like miserable devices to me.  They were the reason for a long time that I didn’t want kids (there were others, but this was the driving force. I’m not trying to be funny, I’m serious.).  I’d see someone pushing a Mini-Cooper sized stroller up to the zoo from Woodley Park, and think, UGH. That’s torture.  My husband has promised he’ll take care of the stroller.  So now I’m on board with kids…someday, but not yet….

11) My dad has a lot of pet phrases he uses over and over again, he’s pretty predictable.  My favorite is when he used to call in the morning and say at the end of the conversation of whatever ’emergency’ necessitated the call, ‘You go and have the best day you ever had in your life.” I’ve been thinking about that saying a lot lately for some reason.  I’m trying to make it a daily mantra for myself.

Not quite twenty questions….

1. Do you prefer to listen to music, or no music, while running or working out? I’ve become a recent convert to not listening to music while I run.  Unless I’m on the treadmill, then it’s a MUST.

2. Where do you find the most support in your life? My husband, my parents, my sisters, my best friend and myself.

3. Would you rather read the book, or watch the movie? Depends what the book and the movie are.  I enjoy both!

4. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing? At my parents’ cottage on Prince Edward Island with my husband and dogs, reading and hanging out on the deck or porch while the dogs play in the yard. Even Jack will play at PEI!

5. What is your favorite meal to prepare? My vegetarian tortilla soup.

6. How many states and/or countries have you visited in your lifetime? I’m pretty lucky- I’ve been to about 30 states, and seven countries (if Canada counts).

7. Ever travel a great distance for a race? Nope, just got into racing this year.  The longest distance was probably my 5K in college in Hartford, which is about 1.5 hours from my hometown.

8. Favorite flavor of ice cream? Mexican Chocolate from the Dairy Godmother.

9. If your life was a title of a song, what would it be called? All the Small Things.

10. What is your greatest temptation (food or otherwise) that might cause you to be less healthy? Reese’s candies and Goldfish- the former because, well, they’re just bad for you.  The latter aren’t terrible in moderation, but I can’t do moderation! I can polish off one of those huge two pound boxes in a week if not restrained…

11. What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you? I have a feeling that this question is more about something I was afraid to do and managed to overcome.  But the first thought that sprung to mind was a memory of one of the first times I was in DC. I was around 8, I think.  We were at the Van Ness metro because that’s where my mom’s best friend lived.  This guy came up to me and started to reach out to me.  I was convinced that I was about to be kidnapped, even though my parents were probably just a few feet away.  The guy reached passed me and got a transit ticket (remember those?).  Hey, I was from a small town and my mom was a little over-protective, and I had an active imagination!

If you’ve managed to read this whole thing, I’m impressed! And while I’m not tagging anyone, I’d still love to learn some random things about you…