Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to run the Scheels Run for Home tomorrow?

What to do, what to do...

Tomorrow I am running in the 11th annual Scheels Run for Home event.  This is something I run and/or help out with every single year, so when this year's race rolled around, I didn't even give it much thought.  When I was asked to help out with the kids' races, I said yes.  I have no idea what I am getting myself into with that, but what the heck.  New experiences are good.

Last week, having spaced my or my family's role in this event for the most part, I suddenly realized that I had not signed up E. or LG for the kids' runs.  They have done these events every year since they could walk, so to have them miss a year would have been tragic to me.  I quickly signed them up online, and while I was at it, I signed myself up for the 10K as well.  It's kind of a down week for me mileage-wise, so I would only be doing six miles anyway.

Well, apparently, by spacing registration, I missed the shirt cut-off for everyone.  I can't believe how much I just seem to have taken it for granted that this race and I would meet up somehow this year.  Luckily, as it turns out, though, the race director contacted me and told me that they would most likely have enough shirts for the kids and - because I am a volunteer - I would have gotten one anyway.  She also pointed out to me, however, that since I am a volunteer this year, I actually didn't have to pay to run the race.  Oops.  A little something for the cause, I guess, if I don't get that back.  Anyway, a very nice perk this year for volunteers!

So, everything is straightened out.  The lesson learned?  Just because you do a race every year for seven or eight years doesn't mean that you don't have to read the race information or sign up by the deadline.  Next year, I will try to be a little more on the ball.

So, now the question is what to do about the race?  Originally, if I didn't have a race this weekend, I would have just run the six miles at an easy 10:00 pace.  (It's supposed to be a down week after all, and I am moving next weekend's 10-miler up to Friday instead of Easter Sunday.)  I keep feeling, though, like I wouldn't mind seeing what I could do.  I think I have it in me to try for a 10K PR, but does that really fit into the plan?  Part of me wishes I had just signed up for the 5K.  I keep hearing about friends who PR'd another race last night.  Maybe there is something in the air?

What to do, what to do...

From 2010 Run for Home - weather should be similar this year, unlike
2011's freezing rain!
So, in a similar situation, would you go all out for the 10K or run conservatively?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coming Out of a Running Rut?

So, lately, racing and/or group runs have been some of the furthest things from my mind, ever since suffering from my weird, enthusiasm-busting shin insult.  (I am now not even sure that I should call it an "injury," since it seems to defy everyone's understanding of acceptable injuries.)  I have shied away from signing up for races or committing to even run with friends, because I have felt I couldn't trust that I would be well enough to run when said events rolled around.  Lately, however, I find myself getting excited again.

I wouldn't say the shin is 100-percent, however I do feel I have a better understanding of how to manage it.  The past couple of weeks, I have successfully gone on eight- and nine-mile runs, done speed work, and enjoyed some group runs without any long-lasting fallout from my efforts.  The shin is still sore afterward, but not lingeringly so.  I can even kneel on the floor without it bothering me.

I don't know what has changed, but a few things do come to mind:
  1. I did start that hot yoga class, taking my yoga up to twice a week.  
  2. I have been more committed to wearing the calf sleeves while running and for recovery after.  
  3. I got the new shoes - the Cortanas - which I am really liking.  
  4. And, ... I have discovered the softball.

This is the newest tool in my injury management tool belt.  My massage therapist was the first one to recommend it a while back while she was torturing me soothing my overtight muscles.  She is a huge fan of using a tennis ball or softball to work some of the deeper muscles and thought if I rolled one along my hamstring it might help with everything.  Well, not knowing which would be better - the tennis ball or the softball - I bought both.  As it turns out, the softball worked better for me.  (My dog really appreciated the tennis balls, though.)  I find it has been useful for rolling around on the hamstring - just like she recommended - and the calves.  However, I also find it useful for rolling my shin muscle.

So, rolling a shin muscle with a softball is not easy.  (Kids, you may not want to try this at home.)  However, I am finding that it really makes a big difference.  After my nine-miler on the trails last Sunday, I noticed the sore spot along my shin was really bothering me.  I grabbed my trusty softball (whose other great benefit is that it is HIGHLY PORTABLE) and decided to give the shin rolling thing a whirl.  Now, I didn't come up with the idea of rolling this particular body part myself.  PT #2 actually recommended I try it a while back with a foam roller.  (That was a funny appointment, as she got down on a foam roller to try it herself before asking me to do it.  She had to make sure it was even possible.)  Well, I did roll my shin with a foam roller a couple of times, but I didn't find it that helpful.  Sunday, though, with the softball, it was like magic!  It seemed to release whatever tightness was pulling on my shin (just below the knee), and I felt relief almost immediately.  Even pressing on the sore spot, it didn't seem so sore anymore.

I don't know.  Maybe it is just my attitude that has changed, but whatever it is I will take it.  I am getting excited about runs again!  In fact, I have three in particular that I am looking forward to in the next couple of weeks:

  • This weekend, I am signed up for the Scheels Run for Home.  It's a home-grown event that is in its 11th year.  I'll be doing the 10K, but I haven't decided yet if I will do it slowly (a la long run pace) or try to kill it (inasmuch as I can kill anything).  It all probably depends on how I feel Sunday morning.  Being in early April, this race has run the gamut as far as weather is concerned, but this Sunday promises to be in the 70s and partly cloudy.  Regardless of how I run, it should be an enjoyable day.
  • Next on tap will be a friend's birthday run.  She's turning 42 and has invited folks to join her for all or part of a 42K jaunt around a Green Bay trail.  I've never run up there and was hoping for ten miles that weekend anyway, so I thought I would go join her for some of her run.  I love celebrating birthdays anyway, and this seems like an awesome way to do it!  (Hmm, I turn 42 later this year as well...)
  • Finally, the opportunity fell into my lap to join a team for the inaugural Run Away to the Bay relay event in a couple of weeks.  Originally, I didn't plan on doing it because of my leg, but now that my confidence is creeping up there, I am excited to give it a go.  This 55-mile relay should be a lot of fun, and I am really looking forward to it.  
Happy Running (again)!

So, what runs are you looking forward to in the near future? Far future?

Have you ever tried rolling a body part with a tennis ball, softball, foam roller, anything else?  What works for you?

Have you signed up to follow the blog yet?  If you are a frequent visitor, please consider it!  I would love to know you are out there!   :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When hitting the trails really just means FALLING

There is a definite art to tripping on the trails.  To do it right, several things have to happen.  Here is a short list of the most important things you need to stumble, bumble, tumble with aplomb.

1) Witnesses.  First and foremost, you MUST have witnesses to the tumble.  In fact, the more, the better.  Because, as any philosophy major will tell you, if you don't have witnesses, it didn't happen.  (Or, would they tell you it did happen?  Anywho ...)
2) Race week.  If you are going to trip, you must make sure it happens within five days of an upcoming race event.  Anything over five days and you are running the risk that you might actually feel okay for the event.  Five days or under and it's more of a crap shoot.
3) Invisible debris.  A good fall will leave no evidence.  (This is especially important if you have fulfilled the multiple witness requirement.)  When you - and your witnesses - look back upon the scene of the crime, there should be no earthly indication of what you possibly tripped on.  In fact, it is even better if instead of a visible rock or tree root, there is simply a series of divots in the dirt where you apparently hopped, skipped, and jumped your way to your downfall.  It gives the witnesses more things to laugh at talk about.
4) Early in the run.  Falling at the end of a run is no good.  When that happens you just get in your car and go home.  It's much better to trip in the first half mile or so, so that you have a good long time to relive the moment and can spend the rest of the run in a state of paranoid anticipation of falling again.  That way you get more bang for your clumsy buck.
5) Get dirty.  What good is a fall if you don't come away at least somewhat soiled?  Ground-in dirt and grass stains on clothes are good.  Pebbles stuck in your hands are even better.  This at least can make you feel more badass during the rest of the run, as you - of course - pick yourself up and continue on the journey.
6) Laughter.  And lots of it.  After all, if you haven't broken anything and you can still run, it wasn't that bad.

So, I had a great run with the Wednesday morning running group this morning.  Eight of us took a little field trip to the local state park to run trails.  My face-plant, which did occur in the first half mile or so of the run, was luckily just a small part of an otherwise enjoyable five miles.  If anything, the fall just makes me shake my head.  I tell myself time and time again that I am not allowed to run trails before a race - just one part of my pre-race weirdness - but I didn't listen.  I ALWAYS trip on trails the week before a race.  This weekend's Run for Home 10K is really just a training run for me.  I don't plan on racing it, but apparently it is enough of an "event" to invite trail tripping disaster.  When will I learn?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I can't hear for all the screaming muscles

By User:Mikael Häggström (Image:Gray190.png)
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This morning I woke up to the sound of screaming muscles.  While I appreciate their right to talk, I do wish they would pipe down or shut up altogether.  After all, I have rowing to do later today and - more importantly - a trail run tomorrow, and I don't want anything to interfere with THE PLAN.

Apparently, Sunday's nine-mile trail run was tougher on the body than I thought.  All those little balancing muscles firing, all that lateral movement to get around rocks and debris - it all took its toll.  My IT bands scream when I sit down.  My hips and glutes scream when I roll over in bed.  My lower calves scream when I walk.  Even my upper back is screaming, although I don't know what's causing that unless it just feels left out of the scream-fest.

Ah well.  I am not necessarily against the soreness.  It makes me feel like I did something, and that's a good feeling.  And, generally speaking, my policy is to never regret a run.  I just get too much out of them.  However, I suppose I can be irritated if I end up hurting myself on one, or even if the general soreness sidelines me in any way for the next couple of days.

Perhaps the yoga class I had on tap for this morning will help.  It's one of those "hot" types of yoga where you really get the muscles loosened up.  I was really looking forward to this class until I woke up this morning; now I just hope it's not too late to do some good.  Suddenly, I fear it may hurt.

Bondi Band Winners!

Thanks to everyone who signed up for the Bondi Band Giveaway this past week!  Congratulations to Paula M. and Karen W. for winning the heart-patterned and Packers Bondi Bands, respectively!  Please get in touch with me regarding shipment at your earliest convenience!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why can't I run the Ice Age Trail everyday?

So, today I had nine miles on the schedule in preparation for my May half marathon coming up.  As luck would have it, Hubby was planning on heading down to run the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine's Northern Unit - about an hour from home - with another ultra runner type for an easy, four-plus hour trail run.  Seeing as my parents had agreed to watch the kids for the day, I decided I would tag along.

I knew from the start that I would not be running with Hubby or our friend, Mike.  They are way beyond my level of running.  However, I was excited to get on the trails for the first time this year and to see what this particular portion of the Ice Age was like, and if that meant running alone in the woods for a couple of hours, so be it.

When I mentioned to Mike on the drive down that I wanted to do nine miles, his response of "oh, so about two hours?" seemed off the mark.  I let it slide, though.  I didn't want to start bragging about how nine miles should only take me about an hour and forty minutes, after all.  Likewise, I shrugged off his comment that nine miles would feel more like fifteen.  I mean, I had run trails before, and sure they are a little tougher, but how bad could it be?  Well, as it turns out, this was no walk in the park.

The Ice Age Trail is a 1,000-mile footpath that highlights Wisconsin's Ice Age heritage and scenic beauty.  The portion of the Ice Age Trail that is in the Kettle Moraine Northern Unit is considered a moderate to difficult course that "follows sinuous eskers and tumbled moraines descending into bogs and deep kettles." (Source:  In everyday language, that means there were a LOT of ups and downs - steep ones.

After saying good-bye to the big boys in the parking lot of Mauthe Lake Recreation Area, I gathered my supplies: a handheld bottle with Gatorade, one Triple Berry GU, some dates, my camera, and my phone.  I was so anxious to start out that I forgot all about the banana I had planned on eating before running. Although my tummy reminded me of that about fifteen minutes into the run, it wasn't worth turning back for it, so I would just have to make do.

Within the first half mile of trail I was already smitten with the beauty of the place.  Deciduous and pine trees stand shoulder to shoulder in a landscape alive with sound, scent, and visual abundance.  Being that it is still March, most of the trees were bare of leaves giving me a nice glimpse into the surrounding landscape, which rolls and climbs, dips and falls toward lakes, ponds, and swampy lowlands.  Frogs provided a musical backdrop to the dramatic and primitive sounding calls of sandhill cranes reverberating through the hollows.

In the 4.5-mile stretch (which I did out and back), I believe I crossed three roads, but aside from a couple of cars driving by on those roads, I did not see a single person the entire time I was out.  In fact, I barely saw any wildlife.  I saw some geese flying overhead and two sandhill cranes.  But it wasn't until the last couple miles of the run that I saw my "greatest find" - a bushy-tailed fox.  The only reason I saw him at all was because there wasn't any cover in the woods for him to hide behind.  I would have loved to get a picture, but he saw me about the same time that I saw him.  And, apparently, he didn't want to have anything to do with me, because faster than I could pull out my camera, he turned tail and ran.  Before I knew it, he was gone.

The trail itself seemed pretty technical to me.  It was at turns muddy, grassy, and rocky.  Leaf litter did a good job of hiding rocks and tree roots, and I managed to turn my ankle once before I realized I would have to stop gawking at the landscape and pay more attention to where I was putting my feet.  Then there were those steep climbs and descents, which I found very challenging.  I ended up walking most of the steeper hills and a fair amount of the downhills, too.  Otherwise, though, I felt pretty good with the steady clip I was able to maintain throughout the run.  In a way, I feel I redeemed myself after my doomed Ice Age Trail Half Marathon last year.  Running that while sick, it took me 3 hours and 15 minutes to cross the finish line.  At least today's nine miles in two hours showed me that I am better than what that time last year reflects (though I think I could do better still!).

In the end, today's trail run was amazing.  I will agree that running a trail like this one is really taxing.  So, yes, I can see where, physically, nine miles would feel like fifteen.  (In fact, I feel I may have tweaked every injury trigger point my body has.) However, mentally, those nine miles felt more like five.  Whereas on the road, when doing a longer run, I always feel ready to be done in the last couple of miles, the last couple of miles from today's run left me feeling sad that the experience was almost over.   Really, I just can't wait to get back.

To end, here are some photos from today's run.  They don't do the trail justice, though.

Start of the trail for me. 
Following a ridge line.
Running along a "saddle" between two lower lying areas.
One of many uphill battles
Rocky uphill trail
More rocks
Mossy rocky part of trail

Thankful for the trail markers.  No getting lost

Down we go
Nice views
Favorite stretch of the trail
Boggy approach to river
At the end of a trail run, muddy shoes mean a trail well run!
That's all!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Running dates (and no I don't mean going on a date date)

Have you signed up for the Bondi Band Giveaway yet?  Just a reminder that this is the last day to sign up.  I'll be randomly picking two lucky winners tomorrow!  Go to my Bondi Band Review and Giveaway page for details.

Have you ever wondered what fifteen pounds of dates look like? Wonder no more!  Yesterday, I was very excited to get this ginormous box of gorgeous dates in the mail.

Why so many dates, you ask?  Well, because Distance Dude and I actually find them pretty good food to eat while running.  I don't even know how we first stumbled upon the idea a year or so ago.  I know after ODing on GUs in a long run a few years ago, I am no longer a huge fan of them.  I can tolerate one or two, but the longer I run the more I need to eat.  And, once I get past three during a run, my stomach starts to rebel.  Somehow they are just too sweet for me.  Switching to Margarita Clif Shot Bloks  seemed to be the solution to the GU dilemma, but they get old after a while as well.  So I was looking for something that could replace your typical GU but still be useful for running.  At the same time, Hubby was also looking for foods that he could carry on his long runs to offset some of the GUs that he was taking in, especially as his mileage got longer and longer.  I guess you could say that the idea of eating real foods while running was just plain more appealing.  After experimenting a bit with dates, we both found that they do seem to do the trick.

And, we're not the only ones who think so.  According to Brian Willett's article What Fruits are High in Carbohydrates, on, "The high calorie density of dates may make them a good choice for endurance athletes or those engaged in intense workouts." 

Ten dried dates contain 61 grams of carbohydrates and 228 calories (Food sources high in carbohydrates,, so the ratio is not too different than, say, a Vanilla Bean GU (which has 25 grams of carbs per 100 calories).  Dates are high in potassium and purportedly have many additional health benefits.  According to the article The health benefits of eating dates on the site Frederic Petenaude: Common Sense Advice on the Raw Food Diet, dates can do everything from helping with intestinal disturbances and heart problems to cutting your risk of stroke and lowering LDL cholesterol.  Of particular interest to endurance athletes, however, may be that dates are digested very easily and therefore are good for supplying quick energy.  Also, dates are rich in iron and can be beneficial to those who suffer from anemia. (

What makes dates great for the average runner, though, is that they carry really well and, at least for me, are easy on the tummy.   I have experimented with them on my two-hour exercise days, where I will run an hour, eat some dates, and then hop on the elliptical for an hour.  I find they don't upset my tummy, they get rid of any hungry feeling I have, and I definitely have energy to continue my exercise.  Dates seem to store forever in the freezer, and they can in fact be eaten straight out of the freezer.

Ideally, the best dates for running would be a drier variety, so they don't stick together.  According to the good folks at Shields Date Gardens, where we ordered our dates on sale, a drier variety would be Thoory - which unfortunately had a bad year this past year - or Deglet Noors.  Since we were looking for a sale purchase, we ended up with this huge box of Khadrawi.  This is a chewier date that is a little moister than I would have liked, but they sure taste good.

If there is any downside to running with dates, it would be the pits.  You can buy pitted dates, but they are more expensive.  So, what to do with the pits?  Normally, I am very much against littering, but is it so bad to spit these out?  I mean, they are natural and will break down - eventually.  And, being in Northeast Wisconsin, I seriously doubt we're in danger of planting unwanted date palms over the countryside, thus introducing an invasive species.  Hmm, I'll have to think about that.  Also, I suppose if you don't like the idea of carrying five dates versus one GU packet, that is a problem, too.  Going on longer runs, though, with a hydration belt or other hydration carrying solution, I find I have plenty of pockets to carry the dates.  Anyway, food for thought if you are looking for another source of energy on your longer runs.

A day off from ~ everything ~

So, I am savoring my day off from running, rowing, strength, yoga, everything today.  Why Saturdays have developed into my official day off every week, I do not know, but it seems to work out great for us.

Saturdays are the days I don't have to:
  • Get up early - well, until my children come bouncing into the bedroom to remind me I promised them pancakes.  
  • Be anywhere - well, unless it is something we want to do as a family. 
  • Feel bad about being lazy - although when I think about the fact that I have been up for hours  and this is the first chance I have to really sit down, I am reminded that the rest of the day will be much of the same.
  • Move - unless you count the fact that later today I'll be either swimming or at the gymnastics center with my kids.  
But, it's all okay.  That's what Saturdays are for.  They are for resting, recovering, savoring, and just plain doing other things.  At least for me.  Tomorrow I will get back into the swing of things.  On the agenda is a nine-mile trail run with the Big Boys.  Well, sort of.  More on that tomorrow.

Last but not least, another self-portrait to end this post with.  I am really not a basketball fan, but I was very sad to see Michigan State lose in the Sweet Sixteen the other day.  As you can tell, I have been expressing my MSU pride this past week with my sweet MSU tech shirt.  Maybe next year!

Do you have a planned day off from exercise?  What do you do with it?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One small step for rowing; one giant leap for parentkind

Today's 5,500-meter row was a little less than ideal.  For some reason, I wasn't feeling too into it, and it didn't help that with the Little Guy on the loose "keeping me company," I couldn't even plug in The Lord of the Rings.  Oh, I SO wanted to know what was going to happen next.  (Oh, wait, I already know.  I've read the books and seen the movies multiple times.  Geek alert!  Geek alert!)

Anyway, while I appreciate LG coming down to keep me company while I row, I know he does so begrudgingly.  Seriously, the boy hates me on the ERG.  I tried to ask him why today, but his vague response of "it takes too long" smacked of lack of detail.  I may not know the whole gripe, but today at least I think I know what was getting him grumpy, and it had to do with this:

My children are completely obsessed with the Angry Bird games, and I rue the day we ever installed them on our computer.  It all started innocently enough.  Kids were talking about it at school.  It sounded kind of fun, and we thought, why not?  We don't really allow them that much computer time or TV time anyway, so what's the harm of a silly little game?  It might even teach them something about physics, what with all the trajectory elements, right?  Little did I know.  If our involvement with the game was simply limited to playing it, that would be fine.  The problem is that there is constant talk about it, too.  Angry Birds, Angry Birds, Angry Birds.  Argh!  And, just when I thought their interest might be waning, along came the promise of Angry Birds Space - weeks ago.  Completely befuddled, I have watched my kids anticipate this new game as if it were Christmas.

Well, today was the day.  We downloaded it for $4.99 - at least it's cheap - and now my kids have spent more time than advisable investigating the intricacies of zero gravity as it pertains to slingshotting a small avian through space, into the gravitational pull of micro-sized planets, all for the pleasure of bumping off pigs.  Did I mention we're vegetarian?  It all just seems so wrong.  Oh well, I am obviously alone in my misgivings.  Besides my kids, my husband and even my parents have been known to play Angry Birds.  I, like the apparent Angry Bird loser I am, am only called in when reinforcements are required and no one else is around.

So, back to today's row.  Although LG never likes me on the ERG, today I have to imagine that his displeasure had less to do with the principle of the thing and everything to do with the fact that I was imposing a no-Angry-Birds break on him.  Grouse, whine, pbbbbttttt.

I have to say, though, it wasn't all bad.  I had a load of laundry in the washer and one in the dryer, and I discovered something very important today that I had failed to realize before.  You see, we have a front loading setup that is not mounted on any stands.  To move laundry around, I have to really bend and strain and stretch to complete the task.  I do not enjoy this, and I have said it before and I will say it again - these things were NOT built for adults to use.  Ahhhhh, but that is where the "wasn't all bad" part comes in.  These machines WERE apparently built for four-year-olds to use.

While I continued to row my boat unenthusiastically down my imaginary stream today, I diverted LG from further whining about how slow I was going (and thus reinforcing the negative view I already had of my workout) by cleverly directing him through the laundry process: empty dryer, move wet clothes from washer to dryer, throw in dirty towels from basket to washer, close all doors.  Done!  The beauty of this whole thing was that LG actually enjoyed doing it.  I felt so smug.  What a win-win situation!  Next it's to get him a chair, so I can guide him through laundry detergent pouring and button pushing.  Okay, so maybe he's not ready for those steps, but a parent can dream, can't she?

So, I want to know...If you have small kids what tricks do you use to get in some exercise while they are about?

Also, don't forget the Bondi Band Giveaway, going on until March 24.  Go here for details.

My feet have (finally!) found a new home AND Bondi Band Giveaway

And, we have a winner!  (Drumroll, maestro, if you please................)

Saucony Cortanas!

Ok, so anyone who has been following my blog of late knows that I have struggled with finding some new shoes.  I don't know why this has to be so hard, but it is.  After years of being told that I am a neutral runner who overpronates ever so slightly on one side - and, ergo, should wear neutral shoes - the most recent round of shoe buying necessity has found the situation changed. Now it seems everyone from my PT to the sales folks at the local running stores are telling me essentially that maybe I should do something about that overpronating-ever-so-slightly thing.  Huh?  Welcome to the search for mild stability, folks.

After over a year in the Nike Pegasus - the marshmallow of running shoes as I have come to know them - not to mention a year of trying to go more minimal, I was tasked with finding a shoe that offers mild support.  

I guess I could see the point.  There is that lingering injury thing, and I do overpronate a bit.  While this should not be a problem on most shorter runs, I want to go looooooooooong.  When I go long, my form suffers, and everything starts to collapse.  

Anyway, the search began, and, as it turns out, the tricky part has been that I only need mild stability - not full-blown stability.  I guess I would incur other problems with that.  To complicate matters, since I have been having issues with my right foot as well (my bigger foot as it turns out), I needed to find a shoe with a wide toe box, too.  Ugh.  

I ended up going to the local running store probably three different times to try on shoes.  Each time, the salesperson pulled out at least nine different boxes of shoes for me to try on.  With every one there was a problem - either I didn't like them or the salesperson didn't like them on me. Go figure.  Then came the Cortanas.  (Cue choir of angels singing.) As soon as I slipped these puppies on, I knew there was potential. Even initially, when the shoes I tried on were a half size too small (because that is all they had), they felt right on my feet.   So, I waited patiently for the correct size to come in, and I went to try them on again.  Again, my feet seemed to like them.  There was hope.  However, I made myself walk away for a few days.  I didn't want to rush into anything.  These are not cheap shoes, people!  In fact, my stomach still clenches a bit when I think about the price.  The company will tell you that the shoes will last 500-600 miles (so longer than your typical running shoe), and I have to say that is the ONLY thing that makes this acceptable to me - well, that, and they were the only shoes that felt good after weeks of searching.  

So, now I have worn the Cortanas four times, and I am happy.  The first two times I wore them for two miles each day and really noticed my lower legs working.  It was hard getting used to the 4 mm drop. The third day I threw caution to the wind and wore them for eight miles and felt great.  Yesterday, I wore them for four miles and barely noticed them.  We have a winner!

So, what are the particulars?  Well, they are technically considered a neutral shoe, but they have enough support to cross over into the mild stability category.  They are firm feeling underneath (so quite different from the Pegasus), but with a slightly cushiony feel to them over the firmness.  There are no overlays across the toe box, so I don't feel like my toes are strapped down when I run. (I haven't noticed my foot issue this past week!)  If I have any complaints, it would be that they seem to hug the ankle a little more than I would like, and on the right foot there is a piece of fabric that is poking down a bit near the base of my little toe.  I guess I'll have to see if that becomes an issue or not.  If it does, I feel confident that a piece of duct tape will do the trick.  So, we'll see.  So far, I am happy with these.  Hopefully, my body will be too.  Time will tell.

But wait, there may be another!  In the throes of my shoe-buying odyssey, I also tried on - just for giggles, you understand - this shoe:

Altra Intuition

The Altra Intuition is a zero-drop shoe that feels amazing on my feet.  It's not as cushiony comfy as the Cortanas by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels like it was cut to the shape of my foot.  Talk about room to spread the toes.  I actually tried these on in a full size too small, but the correct size is heading my way, and I can't wait to give them a whirl.  They are definitely not a stability shoe, but for shorter runs, I think they would feel amazing.  Anyway, I'll know more later.

So, now all that's left is to search for a good trail shoe.  (Deep breath.)  I think I'll wait a couple of weeks before starting that.

To finally wrap things up, here's a shot after a very hot, sweaty four-mile run yesterday.  

I don't know what is going on, but weather in Northeast Wisconsin should NOT be 80 degrees in March.  I guess I'll come clean and admit it - I like winter and I feel like I missed out this year.  Oh well.  

You'll notice that I am sporting a brand new Bondi Band.  I am not kidding, folks, I really like these.  Have you signed up for the Bondi Band giveaway?  It's still going on until March 24!  Sign up now!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sharing Motivation and Thank You

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday, I wrote HERE about how I felt so sorry for myself, because my running life wasn't shaping up to be quite as exciting this year as it was last year.  I forced myself to list ten things that I was grateful for this running year, and then I walked away from it for the day.

Today, I feel so much better.  However, feeling better has less to do with the cathartic value of my list-making, and everything to do with one response I got to the post on my Facebook page.  The response reminded me that motivation comes in many forms, and that sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, and that really our very character is comprised of the net result of what we make of less-than-ideal situations.  In other words, something not going your way?  What are you going to do?  Curl up on the couch and cry or "make lemonade out of lemons?"  I have always considered myself the latter type, but sometimes even I need to be reminded that - while some things are out of my control - others are not, and in the end I am in charge of my own happiness.

I really appreciated the comment and the couple of others responses I got as well for another reason.  While I say over and over again that I am writing this blog for myself and it doesn't really matter if people follow along or not, the truth is that it does matter.  Part of the reason for writing this was so that I could interact with other runners in the community and further afield who share like interests and goals - to share motivation with others.  It means a lot to me to hear back from others, to share that motivation, swap stories, and get ideas.  So, thank you for the responses!

In other news:

I am on the planning committee for our local marathon's training runs this summer, and we had out first meeting of the year last night.  I love being a part of this group.  It's so much fun to put these things together and help others get their training in for their big fall goal events.  But what makes for good training runs?  I want to know what you think!

If you take part in any organized training run programs - not online, but rather live-and-in-person through a local club - what do you like most about the experience?  I would really like to know!

Also, don't forget the Bondi Band giveaway.  If you haven't signed up yet, you have until March 24.  Go HERE for details, my review, and to sign up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Running Has Got Me Down Today

Sometimes I grow tired of being average.

I look at all the amazing accomplishments my friends - not to mention Hubby - are making, and I mentally groan, wondering why I am not right there with them.  I have friends starting incredible journeys this year: shooting for a 100-miler and 50Ks, endeavoring on a career as a pacer, going for Marathon Maniacs, running Boston, gunning for 3:30 marathons, running for yearly mileage goals; the list goes on.

I smile for them, I support them, I cheer them on.  I celebrate them.

And ... I feel sorry for myself.  (How wrong is that?)

Maybe I am finally feeling the letdown after last year.  Last year was my year of accomplishment: five half marathons, a half marathon PR, the Pikes Peak Ascent, all rounded out nicely by my second full marathon ever, which was a PR, too.  But what have I done for myself lately?

This year has thus far been marred by injury and disappointment.  My May marathon has been dropped to a half marathon.  And, except for one huge event on the horizon, there are no little challenges along the way to sharpen my focus.

I know every year probably can't be the big year of accomplishment, but - damn - I miss that.

So, in order not to feel sorry for myself, I am going to list the 10 things - running-related - that this year IS offering me (in no particular order of importance):
  1. A chance to better learn my body through the injury and recovery process
  2. The chance to learn to embrace other forms of exercise besides running and build greater general fitness through cross-training
  3. A 5-Mile PR
  4. The best consistent running times so far - the promise of speed
  5. The chance to better get to know some of the great friends I have made these past couple of years
  6. The opportunity to give back by volunteering at some awesome events coming up, including a 50-mile ultra
  7. The chance to write more about the avocation I love - running - through this blog and two different newsletters
  8. The opportunity to be the best cheerleader I can be
  9. The best end-of-winter running weather I have ever seen
  10. And, then, that huge event on the horizon, which alternately looms darkly and radiates the promise of that elusive "accomplishment" that I seem to crave

So, really, it's time to stop feeling sorry for myself.  There are opportunities everywhere.  I just have to look for them and realize they may not always fall into the narrowly focused definition of "accomplishment" as I understand it.

Time to get doing!

Make me smile.  I want to hear what are the things you are grateful for today?

What will constitute an "accomplishment" for you this year?

Signed up for the Bondi Band giveaway?  Go here for details.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Week on the Couch and Bondi Band Giveaway

First off, have you signed up for the Bondi Band giveaway?  If not, go here and scroll down to the Giveaway information.  I am trying to give these away, people!  No commitment necessary, just a comment.

Sick last week

So, the past week was kind of a crappy one for running.  (Pun intended; you'll find out why in a second. In fact, here it is....) I was sick.  Last week I wrote about how I had a fantastic weekend away, only to come home and have a terrible, dragging, no-pep-in-your-step long run.  Well, it turns out, that was probably because I was incubating some sickie germs, which then manifested themselves the next day as a stomach bug of some kind.  (Here's where the pun comes in, so pay attention, because I won't spell it out.)  You can insert typical stomach bug symptoms here, because I will not speak of them out loud.  Let's just say that one room of my house and I became fairly well acquainted over a 24-hour period.  While that wasn't fun, what was worse was the brief spell of fever and chills that I suffered and then the days of fatigue that followed.  Ugh.

Now, I hate being sick.  I imagine most people do.  However, what I find most galling and irritating is how it messes with my workout schedule.  Here I was all ready to start getting into speed work, needing to get myself back into strength training gear, which I had somehow slipped out of right before the Point Bock Run a few weeks earlier, and I didn't have the oomph to even go for a walk.

So, last week was kind of a loss.  I did manage to attend my first ever heated yoga class Tuesday morning before realizing I was sick.  I'll write about that more another time.  I also did some rowing that morning.  But then Wednesday and Thursday I did nothing.  Friday I was feeling a bit better, so I managed a slow 30 minutes on the elliptical.  An attempt to jog on the treadmill had me stopping after one minute and 11 seconds, though.  I felt like I was at mile 20 of a marathon.  My legs had hit the wall.  I guess I hadn't made up the calories and hydration enough for that type of workout.  Saturday I was too tired again to exercise, so instead it was another day on the couch.

Worse than not feeling well enough to exercise was the guilty feeling I had that I might have made others sick, too.  I mean, I had just come from a girls' weekend away, and three of my friends were running marathons this weekend - two out of town.  I was so paranoid that they would get sick that I didn't even write this blog post until today - after the weekend, because I thought if there is ANYTHING to the power of suggestion, I didn't want to suggest anything.  But, now, all three marathons are in the books, so I feel better about confessing.  (By the way, great job, guys, you did amazing!)  I realize that it was all beyond my control, and chances are good I wasn't even sick while I was at the cottage.  After all, I came home to a sick daughter.  Still, I couldn't stop myself from worrying.  It's the type of person I am, I guess.  So, all's well that ends well.

My last long run

In fact, it has ended well.  I went out and did an amazing long run yesterday.  (Like the way I am dressed for mid-70-degree weather in MARCH?  Is this what global warming looks like, or is it just a fluke? It is supposed to be snowy and miserable this time of year.)

I won't say it felt the best ever, but it was amazing because it didn't suck.  I managed eight miles without walk breaks at an average 10:05 pace.  I was pleased that I could keep the pace slow in the first mile rather than take off sprinting like I normally do, and I think that helped me keep an even pace for the rest of the run.  I did stop to refuel at my car at the halfway point, and I got stopped by a train unhooking cars with about a mile to go, but otherwise I kept chugging along.  My legs did feel tired for a lot of the run, but I took it slowly and managed to get my eight miles in.  Yay!  Afterward, I felt good enough to head in to the gym and put in 39 minutes on the elliptical to round out my two-hour "long-run" workout.  It felt good.  Of course, since my shin hadn't bothered me at all with all the rest it had had, it was a bit of a disappointment to feel the familiar pain upon finishing exercise, but I guess what did I expect?  At least I don't notice it hurting while exercising.

I decided to throw caution to the wind shoe-wise and ended up wearing my Cortanas (pictured on my feet) for the whole run.  For the most part, they felt pretty good.  I didn't feel the lower leg stress that I had on the previous two workouts, so I think I am adjusting nicely to the 4mm drop.  However, I did notice a bit of an ache at the base of my right foot's big toe.  It wasn't as bad as it had been with the Pure Connect Flow, though, so I am hoping it is something I can work through.  I do notice that most shoes are a lot less flexible than the Pegasus I had been wearing, so maybe I just have to adjust to that.  (One salesperson described the Pegasus as the marshmallow of shoes.  Is that why I found them so sweet for so long?)  Anyway, when I mentioned the toe ache to my Hubby, a.k.a. Distance Dude, his response? "Weird."  So helpful.
St. Patrick's Day!

So, did everyone have a nice St. Patrick's Day?  We did in the Average Runner household.  We made a typical Irish dinner - well, as typical of one as people who are vegetarian and don't live in Ireland can make, I guess.   On the menu were:

Irish Soda Bread
Veg. Irish Stew
(You'll have to crank your neck or use your imagination, because I
seem incapable of flipping this photo around.  Too bad, too,
because it is pretty.)  Crazy Green Smoothie.
 Finally, to wrap up - some random photos from life.

E. learning to ride her two-wheel bike this weekend.
Hubby finally put up the running-medal hanger I made for
him for Christmas.  It doesn't look half bad!
Question time!  I struggle with knowing whether or not my body is ready for activity again after being sick, so I'd like to know what guidelines you use to know you are ready for exercise again after being under the weather?  

BONUS Recipe for Crazy Green Smoothie:

1 cup of soymilk
2 cups of fresh spinach
1 apple, quartered
1 orange, peeled
2 kiwis, peeled
2 cups of frozen peaches and pineapple mixed
1 handful of ice cubes

Throw it in the blender and out comes the fun, green smoothie you see above.  It tastes really sweet and refreshing.  We'll definitely be making that again.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bondi Band Review and Giveaway

So, about two weeks or so ago, I alluded to the fact that I was going to have a Bondi Band review and giveaway, and so I am!  However, given the fact that I have never done this before and have no idea of what I am doing, please bear with me.  First, though, the story behind the review, the review, then the giveaway....

Story Behind the Review 
(because everything has a story)

I was first introduced to Bondi Bands through a friend of mine who has for the past winter been sporting a nice variety of running headbands.  Always cute, they were hard not to notice.  When said friend mentioned she was bringing a friend to one of our local group runs to showcase her Bondi Band wares, I got excited.  Not being able to run with the group that day, I arrived late for coffee after my own workout at the gym, only to find most of the ladies in the group huddled around the Bondi Bands like a flock of Omas cooing over a new baby. While ordering my coffee, I realized I hadn't brought enough cash with me to make any extraneous purchases, so I sat down at the far end of the table - feeling a bit sorry for myself but not wanting to be tempted.  Upon leaving, though, I couldn't help but look through the colorful piles of fabric.  They were all so fun looking; it was hard to resist.  Much more fun than the boring single-color bands I had bought in the past at stores.  When one of my friends offered to float me a loan for the purchase of a band, I jumped on it.  I snapped up this fun little gem and off I ran.

One of my completely lovely self-"portraits."  After workout
Bondi Band shot.  No slipping!
Bondi Bands are even great for enjoying a beer after a race!
I put it on immediately and have worn it for almost every workout since.  (Hmm, since I work out six days a week, I imagine that's kind of gross to admit, isn't it?)

The Review

So, what are Bondi Bands?  They are headbands made with folks who live an active lifestyle in mind.  Made of stretchy, breathable fabric, they boast the ability to fit virtually any head size.  So, how did mine work for me?  Great!  The Bottom Line: I love this thing.  I have to admit I was a little dubious at first.  My hair is really straight and fine-textured, so finding a headband that actually stays in my hair for any length of time is HARD.  Mostly, they slip out during my workouts and generally just irritate me.  And, when I first put this one on and wore it around, I worried that it too might slip.  I found myself constantly reaching up and making micro adjustments for - as it turns out - no really good reason.  The band was solid.

And as promising as that was, wearing the Bondi Band while working out was even better than expected.  No slipping at all, especially once I started getting a bit sweaty.  (Oh wait, do women sweat?  Maybe I should say when I started to glow.)  It does a great job of keeping the sweat glow out of my face, is cute and comfortable.  It's lightweight; you can barely feel it's there.  I can wear it scrunched together like a regular headband or widened to cover my ears.  Over the ears it does a really decent job of keeping them warm.  And, as an added bonus, it washes well.  I don't know what the official instructions are, but mine has now been through the washer several times (and the dryer once by accident), and it still feels the same and looks as good as new.  Really, if I have any complaints about the Bondi Band, it's that I only have one of them!  (I'll soon be rectifying that.)

The Giveaway - Now Closed

So, now for the giveaway.  Thanks to Wisconsin Bondi Band rep Rachel Tattum, I have two gorgeous Bondi Bands to give away.  Both are adult sizes.  One is more for the girly-girl (pink hearts) and one is for the Packer fan.  I covet both of them, but I swear I have not worn them.  They are brand-spanking new.  I will have a hard time parting with them, but part with them I will.

Now, I guess this is where I am supposed to say that you have to be a follower of my blog to get one of these, but after some thought, I am not going to do that.  I really am writing this more for me, so simply follow if you are interested.  Otherwise, more importantly, to enter the giveaway you need to do one of two things: simply leave a comment below OR on my Facebook page saying that you're in for the contest and which band you'd prefer by March 24.  I'll randomly pick one person for each band on March 25 and announce the winners via this blog on March 26.  (Note: contest limited to US addresses.) That's it!  Easy peasy!  Feel free to pass this along.

Giveaways not your thing?  No problem!  I know that there are two running stores in Wisconsin that sell them - Run Away Shoes and Fleet Feet Fox Valley both in Appleton.  To contact the Wisconsin rep directly, e-mail Rachel Tattum at Or, there is always the Bondi Band website at

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Roller Coaster that is Life

Man, there are times when I just feel like I am riding a roller coaster - with running, life, everything.  This past week, I've had the best race experience (previously reported here), great mid-week runs, and a wonderful weekend getaway - all followed by one of the crappiest long runs I've had in a long time.

A Weekend Away

Let's start with the weekend. Saturday I was invited to spend a night with a group of ladies at a cottage up north.  If spending some time with four of my favorite running friends wasn't good enough, what made it even better was just getting away.

You can tell the group consisted of runners.
When I first told the Hubby about the invite, I expected rolling of eyes, gnashing of teeth, tearing out of hair (I don't get out much).  Instead what I got was a very supportive, sure, we'll make it work out.  So, Saturday morning around 10:45, with my bags packed and directions printed, I said good-bye to Hubby, E., and LG and hit the road.  An hour-and-a-half drive later, and I was there.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  The last trip I had done without the family had been two years previously, so I felt a bit out of practice when it comes to being on my own for a getaway.  I shouldn't have worried, though; I had a blast.  We were only gone for 24 hours, but we crammed a lot of shopping, food, wine, cards, and talking into that time.  I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long time.

Cards held high to protect the innocent.
I am glad that I enjoyed myself so much, because it became apparent that when I got home I wasn't missed as much as I had thought I would be.  While I expected shouts of joy when I walked through the door, I got "oh, hi."  Seeing as everyone was ensconced in a rousing game of Batman on the Wii, I was barely acknowledged.  When pressed later, LG even admitted proudly that he hadn't missed me a bit.  "No, really.  I'm not lying.  I didn't miss you."  Feeling the love here.  The other thing I missed by being away was E. being sick.  Apparently too much spinning around at the park. Hubby took it all in stride and all was good.

One thing about being away with a bunch of running friends is that - of course - the talk turned to running, so I came home with some good ideas on how to start introducing speed work into my regimen.  I'll be putting them into play in the next week or so, so we'll see how that goes.

The Need for Speed

Speaking of speed work, I had already started playing around with it this past Friday, and that went okay.  The kids had the day off so that left me having to get in five miles on the treadmill.  This is not my favorite thing to do.  Aside from the fact that I am just not a treadmill type of gal, stopping every few minutes to yell at LG for throwing legos is not fun.
Rule #1: Don't throw the legos near the treadmill.  Rule #2: Don't throw the legos near the CF light bulb!  
Anyway, I thought since I was a captive audience anyway, I might as well use it to my advantage.  So, after doing a two-mile warm-up, which included me wearing my new Cortanas, I switched back to the Pegasus and started the speed workout.  What I chose to do, based on Hubby's recommendation was to try for three two-minute intervals at a speed as fast as I could stand.  I didn't exactly know what that would be, so it was trial and error for a bit there.  After managing only one minute at 7:30 pace for my first interval, I decided to take it down to 8:00 pace.  That at least was a pace I could manage for two minutes.I wouldn't say that this first attempt at speedwork went terribly, but it definitely was a challenge.  My legs were feeling it for the couple of days after.

I have worn the Cortanas twice now and the jury is still out 
on whether or not I love them.  I definitely like them.  
They feel really comfortable, but I still need to get used 
to the 4mm drop.  They are really taxing my shins 
and calves right now, so I am hoping a couple of 
miles twice a week will be enough to help me work into them.
Seven Miles and Counting

Given the weekend away, I didn't get in my long run Sunday, so yesterday morning after dropping LG off at school, I headed out.  I fully intended to do my typical Sunday routine of two hours of exercise - running and elliptical.  Yeah, that didn't work out.  I got the run in - seven miles outside in the mild temps.  Unfortunately, my first seven miler since the injury became acute didn't feel really comfortable.  I don't know if it's the time change, repercussions from too much wine on the weekend or what, but running was a struggle.  I was tired, and I seemed to be suffering more aches and pains than usual.  I didn't help myself out either.  I was really shooting for an average pace of 10:00 to 10:30, which I achieved (10:10 for the whole run), but the first four miles or so were done at an average 9:40 pace, so faster than I would have liked.  Try as I might, though, I couldn't get my pace down to 10:00 comfortably - well, that is, until I crashed and really slowed down.  I can see where the run/walk might come in handy.

Once back inside, I managed about ten minutes on the elliptical before calling it quits.  It wasn't that I was tired, rather the inside of my left knee was hurting.  I've had this happen one time before on the elliptical, and I am not sure what causes it, but it's a show stopper.  With any luck, like the time before, this won't become a regular fixture of elliptical usage.  Also, hopefully with a couple of days of better sleep, I'll be feeling a bit more energized all around.  Happy running!

No-Chocolate Challenge: Day 21 - Still no chocolate here, and I have even resisted serious get-out-of-town weekend temptation.  Take that, Challenge!

No-Chocolate Challenge: Day 18 - Faced with bowls full of
peanut and regular M&Ms, I resisted.
There was some debate on whether
the Chocolate Raspberry Port should actually be
considered chocolate or not.
After checking out the contents of a glass,
it was decided that this was NOT chocolate.