Friday, July 23, 2010

Stuck on Slow

I think I’m stuck in a rut. I’m still running – trying to get in at least 20 miles most weeks. But on each run, I seem to be stuck on slow. I don’t know if it’s the heat or not having a race to train for but I seem to be in slow mode.

Plus, I’ve been kinda quiet in the blogosphere so here’s a rundown of what’s been going on in my running life for the last few weeks:
  • I’m breaking in a new pair of running shoes. I usually run in Brooks Adrenaline GTS and I like my Brooks but I won a pair of New Balance 760 in a raffle so I’m giving them a try and so far so good. They’re comfortable but the soles aren’t as firm as my Brooks. My longest run in them has been 8 miles and my feet felt fine so they’re keepers.
  • I took a few trips. I went to New York/New Jersey and Michigan. The humidity and heat in the Tri-State area was pretty intense. I only ran once and I was spent by the time I had finished. My trip to Lake Michigan was great. I ran along the water one morning. The weather was perfect for it – 60s and breezy. I told my husband we have to go back. The water was beautiful.
  • I started a new job. Adjusting to a new work schedule coupled with the heat changed up my running schedule. I really wanted to run in the morning but the local park and running trails don’t officially open until 7 a.m., which doesn’t allow me enough time to run and get ready for work. I told myself I was going to get up at 5:30 a.m. and run in the neighborhood but the one time I did that, I saw how dark it was and went back to bed. I don’t like running in the dark alone. I don’t feel safe. So that leaves running after work, which I do from time to time, and cross training on the days when it’s too hot to run.
  • I figured out a simple solution to my sports bar woes – wear two. I’ve been doubling up for about a month and haven’t had any chaffing problems. Plus I can now run in tank tops. I should have thought of that a long time ago.
  • I’ve been bike riding with my husband, although we fell off the wagon since our vacations. Our longest ride was 18 miles. Cycling is great cross training so I’m enjoying it. Plus my husband refuses to run outside of the gym so this is something we can do together.

So what am I going to do to break out of my running funk? Well my running partner, who is faster than me, is running again. She broke her foot the day before the Glass City Marathon and had to take two months off from running. Now she’s healthy and we’ve been running together. Most of our outings so far have been long runs and we run at a fairly moderate pace. We’re planning to do tempo and speed workouts but they haven’t started yet. Also several of the local running stores offer marathon and half marathon training programs to get folks ready for fall races. We’re been doing the group long runs on Saturday mornings. It’s been a great way to meet people and running with a group always pushes me.

How about you? What do you do to break out of your running ruts?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sun Safety

Memorial Day may be the unofficial start of summer but people have been baring plenty of skin while running for weeks and I’m one of them. It’s hot and I’m trying to stay cool.

For me, when the clothes start to come off, the sunscreen goes on. I’ve faithfully used a sports sunscreen on my body for years but can’t say the same about my face. I did use a facial moisturizer with SPF but felt like I needed more protection. This year I decided I was going to find a sunscreen for face that was suitable for my active lifestyle. I wanted a sunscreen with a high SPF that wouldn’t run in my eyes or cause breakouts. There are several on the market but after trying a few, I choose Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 55. It’s very water resistant and retains SPF after 80 minutes of activity in the water.

Regardless of the brand you choose, we all need to use screen. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 million basal and squamous skin cancers are found each year and there are more than 68,000 new cases of melanoma. Since runners are out in the sun a lot, we need to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. I also slap on a hat or a visor and wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB light.

The skin on our faces is fragile. Not only do I want protection from skin cancer but the premature aging sun damage can cause. What type of sunscreen do you use and why?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Bugs Attack

April showers bring May flowers and bugs are definitely in the mix. All that rain we’ve experienced so far this year has provided the puddles and ponding necessary for a healthy bug population.

Lately when I’ve been running and riding, I’ve had to watch how I breathe to make sure I don’t swallow any bugs.

I had a particularly bad bug encounter last fall, about a month after I had moved to Northwest Ohio. I went running in a wooded preserve like I did every Wednesday but this time it was one day after a heavy rain. The bugs were out in full force. I had to cut my run short after a mile. I had bugs in my hair, in my eyes and all over my clothes. There were plenty of people out running but I couldn’t take it anymore. I went home and debugged in the shower. I learned my lesson and haven’t done that again.

Now that the weather has warmed up, the bugs are back. I’ve been breathing through my nose and really careful when I breathe through my mouth. If I do shallow one, at least I hear I’ll get some protein but I hope that doesn’t happen. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Recap

13.1 miles in one of the most beautiful cities in the country – I’ll take it.

Rock ‘n Roll San Diego was a blast. While this was the first half marathon that I didn’t PR in, it was a very positive experience.

First – it was in San Diego. I love San Diego. The weather is great. The scenery is picturesque. There is plenty to do and see before and after the race and I tried to do it all. I went to Coronado. I went wine tasting. I went shopping. Need I saw more…

Second – my girls were with me. The ladies who initially helped shaped me as a runner. The ones who encouraged me to run with them even though I couldn’t keep up. The ones who told me I could run a 10K and they were right. The ones who told me I could run a half marathon and they were right again. I owe a lot to these women. We ran together every week for more than a year when I lived in California and did a fair share of races side by side. This was my first race with them since last year’s San Francisco Marathon – 1st Half. It was nice to share this experience together.

Third – it was my first Rock ‘n Roll race and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Overall it was well organized. The expo was great (although I was disappointed Race Ready wasn’t a vendor – I was hoping to purchase a pair of capri's). The start went smoothly. The finisher’s village was nice with a beer garden and food by P.F. Chang's.

Now back to my time and not setting a PR. I missed my goal by two minutes but I wasn’t disappointed. The last three half marathons I did, I shaved 4 – 5 minutes off my time during each race. I figured it was a matter of time before I hit a plateau. This race was 6 weeks after my last half marathon. Now that I look back, I don’t feel like I trained as hard as I could have. I did several tempo runs but only one speed workout. I had a few low mileage weeks due to work commitments. I did feel good on race day. A friend decided to run with me to help me get to my goal. We went out strong but I ran out of steam around mile 11 and really had to push to get to the finish line, one minute slower than my PR. This race was definitely a learning experience – I got some pointers on my stride that I’ll have to try.

After resting for a few days, my plan is to change up my training routine. I want to cycle two days a week, have a weekly long run, a weekly tempo run and alternative weekly easy runs and speed workouts.

I don’t know what my next race will be. There are a lot of options and I’ll figure it out eventually. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the journey. Happy running!

This is the last post in the Marathon Mondays series. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Destination Race

I love to travel. Destination races combine my love of traveling with my love of running. Most of my half marathons have been destination races including my next race, Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

Destination races are fun because you get to explore a new city or a new section of a familiar city. Now that I have running friends who live all over the country, it’s nice to reunite to run races in different cities. Plus each race is different. Some may take you through historical locations, while others have ocean views. There’s often new terrain you can brag about conquering. I like how race organizers want its participants to have a unique experience.

Traveling for a race does take some planning. After you register, you have to book a hotel and figure out how you’re going to get there – via plane, train or automobile. Then there are meals and getting to and from the race.

For Rock ‘n Roll San Diego, I’m meeting up with a bunch of my running buddies. We ran together for years when I lived in California so when they all registered for the race, I knew I wanted in. After I signed up for the race, I figured if I was going to travel 2,500 miles, I needed to make the most of it. So I asked a friend (who doesn’t run) to come with me. We’re flying in on Friday and staying until Tuesday. So in addition to running the half marathon, we’ll spend a few days in San Diego and Los Angeles shopping and sightseeing.

Do you participate in destination races? What do you like about them?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Local Race Experience

Participating in a marathon in or near your hometown can be a very rewarding experience for lots of reasons.

First, you save money on travel. You don’t have to worry about airplane tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars. While I love a good road trip, with the economy being what it is, it’s easier on my wallet to race close to home (I do have an out of state destination race coming up but it might be the only one I run this year).

Local races are great because you can run the trail during your training runs. Being familiar with the course could help you run a good race. There won’t be any surprises. I chose not to do that for the Glass City Marathon because I like variety and surprises. The course covered areas I run on a regular basis but had plenty of streets I’d never ventured down. It was nice to explore new areas of my community and it kept things interesting.

Local races mean your friends and family don’t have to travel to cheer you on. They just have to get up early in the morning, but we’re worth it right?

Running in your hometown means sleeping in your own bed the night before the race (I really like this perk). I think I sleep better in my own bed than in hotel rooms. Familiar surroundings are comforting and relaxing. For GCM, I was well rested race day because I slept in my own bed.

Local races come with local bragging rights. The average person may not have heard of a “little” race like the Boston Marathon, but if you mentioned you ran (fill in the blank) race, they’ll know what you’re talking about because of the local news coverage or the traffic delays due to race road closures.

Since the race is in your backyard, you have an opportunity to help put on a quality event. Organizers are always looking for volunteers to assist with race preparations, work the expo or help out along the course. I volunteered at the expo for the Two Cities Marathon when I lived in Fresno a few years ago. It was nice to talk to the runners as they picked up their race packets. It was interesting to learn how far people traveled to be in the race. I developed an appreciation for all the hard work and organization it takes to put a race together. It also made me appreciate how hard volunteers work. Now I’m always gracious when I pick up my race packet or walk through a water stop. Good volunteers are essential and should be celebrated.

If you want to do more, you could join the race organizing body. From marketing and sponsorships to course logistics and website development, there’s so much to be done. The skills you use every day at work could benefit the race organizers. You never know until you ask.

What do you like about local races?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So Many Shoes, So Little Time

Good running shoes are an essential element of a runner’s gear. There are folks who prefer to run barefoot but I’m not one of them (no offense). When I got serious about running a few years ago and realized my cute sneakers weren’t running shoes, I knew I had to do something about it. From reading running magazines and websites, I learned running shoes come in three major categories:

Neutral: for runners who don’t pronate and have high or normal arches

Stability: for runners who overpronate and have low to normal arches

Motion Control: for runners who overpronate and have low arches

Then I went to my local running store to find out which shoes would be good for me. I took my shoes off and walked while one of the sales clerks watched and was told I needed a stability shoe. After I found out the type of shoes I needed, I started searching and trying on every stability shoe I could find. I settled on Brooks Adrenaline GTS.

Recently I walked into a Road Runner Sports store looking to check out some tights, shorts and skirts I had seen online. Shopping for running shoes was not on my agenda. A sales associate asked me if I wanted to have a Shoe Dog analysis done. I said, “Why not?” This involved walking across a pad connected to a computer, standing on the same pad and running barefoot on a treadmill to capture video of my stride. The analysis confirmed I need stability shoes. I have medium arches. I am right foot dominant, placing more force and weight on my right side. I was told my Brooks were a good shoe for me, which is good because I like them (I’m on my third pair). He also suggested a few others I could try. So when I’m in the market to buy new shoes, I’ll check those out.

In the past I purchased sneakers based on looks. What would match my outfit? What were most of the kids wearing at school? I didn’t buy them based on what I planned to do in them. Now I know better. If you’re looking for shoes, whether high tech or eyeballing it, your local running store is a good place to discover the proper shoe for you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Races Come in All Sizes – Pick One

I have to admit, I only have four half marathons under my belt. The biggest race I’ve done so far was the San Francisco Marathon (1st half) and the smallest was the Glass City Marathon. I’ve learned there are perks to both.

Large races come with bragging rights. Now I can say, “I ran SF, I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge.” That’s major. There were great views of the Bay, great course support with plenty of water, sports drinks and energy gels, and a nice expo packed with vendors. Although there were more than 20,000 runners, the start was well organized and the finishers’ village had tons of goodies.

Small races are quality experiences as well. The smaller field means you’ll cross the start sooner. Often they come with cool swag like mugs and hoodies in addition to the standard technical tee and medal. Plus smaller races have shorter lines for the post race massage and you have more of a personal race experience.

I recently met a woman who is planning to run her first marathon in the fall. She chose the Chicago Marathon. “10.10.10,” she proudly proclaimed. She wanted her first full to be a big one and with 45,000 people registered to run, she’ll get her wish.

Having run both big and small, I ultimately think it doesn’t matter as long as the race is well run. I want nice swag – a technical tee and medal, good course support with water, sports drinks and gels, and crowds to cheer me on.

What do you look for when picking a race?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Compact Remedy to a Salty Problem

You ever notice how some people have white stuff on their faces after a tough workout or a long run. Most likely they, like me, are salty sweaters. All that white stuff is running badge of honor called dried salt. Sometimes I have so much on my face, I feel like I could be used as a salt lick.

That’s why I was so excited when I saw Neutrogena’s new Deep Clean Sport On-The-Go Cleansing Wipes on the company’s website. A few days after discovering them, I purchased a box at my local grocery store.

I had two requirements before the wipes could get my seal of approval. First it had to clean my face without drying it out. Second it couldn’t cause breakouts.

I figured the Glass City Marathon would be a good time to put them to the test. After I finished the half marathon, I slipped the individually wrapped wipe out of my pocket and cleaned my face. The wipe had a pleasant scent. Even though I didn’t have a mirror, I would tell it was removing the salt and dirt on my face. The tell tale signs of my run were gone when I was done. When I got home an hour and a half later and looked in the mirror, my face looked dewy and refreshed – no dry spots, no salt. I showered and completed my daily skincare routine and haven’t experienced any breakouts.

Now you’re probably thinking – why don’t I just carry a towel like so many other runners? I gave that a try but didn’t like having to keep up with while I was running. The wipe easily fits into the arm wallet I use for my cell phone so my hands are free. I also tried paper towels but they were rough and left lint on my face. I’ve used the Neutrogena wipes several more times since Glass City and I’m still pleased with how they work. If you’re a salty sweater like me, you might want to give them a try.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mind vs. Body

By: Black Girls RUN!
Special to RunDivaRun

My mom says that I have a delusional image of myself as a type of super hero with supernatural strength and ability. It’s true…Even in elementary school, I was queen of the playground - jumping off the highest monkey bars and tackling the biggest boys in class. My super hero delusion carried over to the soccer field and basketball court as I challenged anyone who dared to step to me. So, it was pretty difficult for me when I was preparing for my first half marathon, ING Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon, and I couldn’t see an opponent standing on the opposite side of the field. If I’m a super hero, I need a bad guy or opponent to defeat, right?

With no opponent in sight, it slowly felt as though I developed my own internal competition. It was my body versus my mind. It was as if they were battling it out to see who was bigger, stronger and all around more badass. When my body felt good during my long runs, my mind was telling me to stop or that I was too bored to make it through the next seven miles. Conversely, when I was mentally prepared I would develop some sort of nagging body ache or pain. Despite my best efforts, this competition lasted up until race day. I finally sat down and took some time to meditate before the race. Through this meditation, I was able to unite my mind and body on the same team. Once that happened, it became me against the course. My body ran smoothly and injury free and my mind kept it motivated and going.

How do you manage mental and physical preparation for a race? Does your preparation start when you are training or on race day?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Morning After the Storm

By CTRun
Special to RunDivaRun

Have you ever done something that you know deep down that you shouldn't, but you do it in spite of better judgment because you want something really bad? Well, that's the Country Music Marathon in Nashville for me. From the start, my gut told me to skip this one. But for whatever reason I had for not doing this marathon, miraculously there was a solution to that problem so I pressed on. First I had to learn how to train in 20 degree weather. My body adapted and now I run very well in cold weather, in fact I prefer 20 degrees to the race day’s 65 degrees. Then I didn't have training partners for my long run. Well, my local running buddies stepped in and got me through many of those long runs. Next, I didn't have any one to travel with. For me marathons are an experience to be shared. I love the excitement of the expo, the clinics, the booths, the pasta dinner and the walk to the start. Who wants to do that alone? Then I met my neighbor and she had already registered for Nashville. Furthermore, she agreed to drive. That problem was resolved. So I kicked my training into gear. I was so excited.

Oddly, a couple of weeks ago I started having problems with my feet. Nothing major just discomfort in my forefoot and which lead to abrasions on the bottom of my forefeet (blisters) and pain in my right calf (which I ruptured last Spring). So, I decided to switch shoes. My new shoes were great for my feet, but suddenly the slight tightness I had been feeling in my glutes and hamstrings turned into pain. I couldn't sit for more than 5 minutes and my legs ached all the time. But I was going to run this marathon, no matter what. After all I'd put in hundreds of training miles in the bitter cold and I made a commitment to a new friend that I'd do it. But I had a bad feeling when we left the Friday before the race. First there was the weather report. A major storm was blowing in. Secondly, the four hour drive to Nashville was excruciating. My butt just HURT! Thirdly, when I went to get my number at registration, it wasn't there because they'd given it to someone else (luckily it was given to the friend of one of my running partners). Then neighbor wanted to have dinner with some of her old friends, which was great, but I had to sit on the inside of a cramped booth for two hours. My legs were killing me.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. Which shoes should I wear? The Asics Kayanos, which give me blisters and calf problems, or the Saucony Progrid Guides, which enhance my glute and hamstring pain? I figured the lesser of the two evils was the blisters, so I went with the Kayanos. As I walked to the start, I knew I'd made the wrong choice. My legs felt great, but it was as if I could feel the asphalt beneath my feet. By mile 8, my feet felt like someone was cutting into them. It occurred to me for a second that I should just do the half marathon, but how I would I explain to everyone that I did not do the marathon because I had blisters? So I kept pushing on, thinking of everything except my bloody feet. I changed up my stride, so I would land on my heel. By mile 14, I started having jabbing pain both calves. The pain was sharp and sudden that it immobilized me. I pulled off, massaged out the knots and tried to press on, but I couldn't run very fast. I stopped at the medical tent at 15. They iced my calves, cleaned and lanced my feet and gave me clean dry socks and salt but advised me to pull out. I made it to the medical tent at 17.2 where I finally quit.

I was stuck in the medical tent for 2 and half hours because they diverted all the shuttles to pick up runners because the storm was blowing in. I was laying on a cot, but got up and away from all medal when the lighting started. When the bus finally came it was full of people who had been swept. They dropped us all off at the half marathon/diverted marathon finish. They told us all to run the last mile to get our medal. When I finally crossed the finish line, I limped pass the people handing out medals. A volunteer chased me down, but I told her I didn't deserved a medal because I hadn't run a marathon that day. I think she thought I was crazy. She was so kind. Here she was a race volunteer holding medal objects in the middle of a thunderstorm, so I let her put the medal around my neck.

It turns only a tiny percent of marathoners actually completed the full marathon yesterday. Most were diverted to an early finish.

Nashville - Nashville - Nashville. I will be back next year to redeem myself.

Well, my calf still hurts and my feet are a mess. My husband is mad at me but my kids think I'm a hero for having survived the "storm." My hubby wants me to run for fitness, just a couple of miles a week. I can't do that, I set out on this quest for Boston and I'm not going to stop until I make it. I have three other marathons planned this year, the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon, The San Francisco Marathon and the Nike Women’s Marathon. Hopefully, one of those will be the "one." :-)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Glass City Half Marathon Recap

So…let’s just say I’m a little excited about how my race went yesterday. The rain held off and I ran well setting a new personal record of 2:01. I seem to improve with each half marathon – this is my fourth – but this one was different from the rest.

It was the first half marathon I trained for mostly on my own. I had one long run with a friend and those tempo workouts during the Thursday night group runs but other than that, I ran alone. I was outside logging miles in below freezing temperatures and when it was dark I ran on the treadmill. It seemed like I was running a lot but when I looked at my 2009 running log, I was down about 50 miles compared to this point last year.

Also this was the first half marathon I did in my hometown. All my other races were destination races where I traveled with friends or family and talked running all weekend. I think it made a difference on my ability to sleep the night before the race. Usually I only get about an hour or two of sleep despite going to bed early. I tend to lay there in the dark hotel room, my mind racing from the excitement. This time I was able to get about 6 hours of sleep. I woke up about 2 hours before my alarm was set to go off but I stayed in bed and rested.

Similar to my first half marathon, this was a smaller race – only 1500 runners in the half marathon portion. Given the smaller size, the expo was smaller but it was nice. It had a health fair with cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, a few regional race representatives and the local running stores had nice booths with great deals on running shoes and apparel.

Race day went well. My husband dropped me off so I wouldn’t have to worry about parking and I walked to the start. The corrals were set up by pace so I joined the 9:00 minute mile group and made small talk with the runners. The horn blew at 7 a.m. and we took off. I couldn’t tell where the actual start was so I was a few seconds late starting my watch. Since I didn’t know the people around me, I randomly selected a lady that was running well as my bunny. That’s how I get through races. I pick people to pass up and when I get pass them, I selected a new target. This bunny was a formidable competitor although she didn’t know it. I started out averaging a 9:30 pace for the first few miles with my bunny in my sights. Around mile 3 or 4 I was running a 9:15 average pace. When I hit mile 8, I was able to pass her but she caught back up to me while I was walking through a water stop. I sped back up, my pace hovering about 8:45 – 9 minute miles and passed her again around mile 10. I ran another 2 miles before she passed me again for good. She had a kick during the last mile and I couldn’t catch her. She finished at least a minute ahead of me. When I finally crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe my time. I was hoping to run a 2:05 but when I saw 2:02 on the race clock, I knew I had it beat. I was jumping for joy when they posted the results and I saw 2:01:06. It’s only a matter of time before I reach my sub 2-hour goal. Who knows? Maybe it will happen at Rock ‘n Roll San Diego in June.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marathon (or Half Marathon) Mondays

For the next few Mondays, RunDivaRun articles will be all about marathons or half marathons. Several guest bloggers and myself will share our racing experiences. Be sure to check it out. Happy Running!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Don’t Rain on My Half Marathon Parade

On Sunday, I will complete my four half marathon at the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio. I’ve been training since February for this race and I think I’m ready. I had a few low mileage weeks due to my crazy work schedule. But I was still able to do three 10 mile long runs, weekly tempo workouts and a few speed workouts.

The only thing that really has me worried is the weather – the weather forecasters are predicting rain. While thunderstorms don’t appear to be on the radar, I’m not looking forward to running for two hours in the rain. Now I’ve run in the rain several times before but it’s not my favorite past time and it was usually for less than an hour.

Rain can change my whole game plan. It makes me question what I’m going to wear. I usually wear black Capri tights and the race’s technical tee but now I’m not so sure. It is suppose to be in the 50s but if it rains, I’ll probably be chilly. But if I wear long sleeves or a jacket, I’ll probably get hot after 3 – 4 miles. Most likely I’ll end up wearing a black jacket and wrapping it around my waist. Plus I’ll throw on a visor to help keep the rain out of my face.

There are so many unknown variables with rain. How will the wet clothing and shoes affect my pace? I think most of the race course is paved so I don’t think I’ll have to deal with mud but what about puddles? I was hoping to shave a minute off my previous half marathon PR of 2:06 but we’ll see. Check back on Monday to see how it went. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Garmin Gives Me Wings

Several months after I first started running (which was more than two years ago), a good friend gave me a running watch for my birthday. It was a great gift, a pink and black New Balance Vent Mini High Performance Running Watch. It was a faithful companion with a timer, chronograph and the ability save runs. I even purchased a cute pink moisture wicking top and pink and black running skirt to match my watch. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute.

Since I was new to running, I wasn’t aware of all the running gadgets on the market. It wasn’t until I joined a running club and started reading Runner’s World that I discovered the Garmin. My new friends were able to track their distance, pace, calories burned and so much more. While I was still in love with my running watch, a seed was planted. From time to time I would ponder the possibilities of running with a watch that could do all of that.

Fast forward two years and I finally purchased a Garmin – a 305 Forerunner with heart rate monitor. My first run with it on my arm was an adventure. It was so freeing to be able to run anywhere I wanted to go. I didn’t have to drive the course, consult a trail map or plot my course on a site like Map My Run to figure out how far I was running. I felt giddy. I ran all over a local park that was full of trails. Usually I would stick to the courses with mile markers but this time I ran all over the place. It sounds corny but it was a lot of fun.

I still have my old faithful running buddy. We’ve been through a lot together – three half marathons, a 10 K, a few 5Ks and a couple of 2 mile races. I’ll always have found memories of the track workouts and those killer 400 meter repeats.

I know the Garmin isn’t for everyone. Some say it’s too big and bulky, while others prefer the simplicity of the stop watch but it works for me. If you’re looking for a GPS-enabled sports watch, other popular brands include Polar and Suunto. There are also non-watch options like Nike+ and Adidas miCoach. What’s your running watch of choice?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Running Bra Blues

An essential part of a woman’s running gear is a good sports bra. You gotta support “the girls.” But when you’re blessed up top like I am, a good sports bra is hard to find.

To be fair, I have challenges finding everyday bras, not just running bras. Usually I can only shop at Nordstrom, Macy’s or locally-owned specialty stores. No trips to Victoria’s Secret for me. When you’re slim and rock a G cup, yes I said G cup, your options are limited.

My trusty non-running running bra is one of those old school numbers that has straps in the front and four hooks in the back. But when I put that puppy on, I am locked and loaded. I look like Dolly Parton, “the girls” are so high. But the bra isn’t cute so I can’t where tanks and singlets because it will show.

This year I decided I would start hunting for an alternative. So far this has involved buying sports bras for DD and DDD and seeing if they’ll work.

My first purchase was the CW-X Xtra Support Bra. When I put it on, I had this huge uniboob. I jumped up and down and jogged in place in the fitting room and it seemed okay so I bought it. My first run in the bra went well. I ran 4 miles outdoors in 30 degree temperatures. There was some bounce but it wasn’t unbearable. But when I used the bra indoors on the treadmill, the heat of the room caused me to sweat more which resulted in friction burns along my collar bone. Can you say ouch? So that bra has been designated a workout and not a running bra.

My second purchase came out of a Road Runner Sports catalog. I saw the Women’s Intensity Tank Bra Top and figured I’d give it a try. It can be worn under shirts or alone giving me more options for cute running tops. My first run in the tank bra top was 3 miles outdoors in 70 degree weather. I noticed the bounce when I started running but it wasn’t too bad. By the end of the run, the bra wasn’t on my mind. So far no friction burns but I have to see how it holds up on longer runs.

The next bra I plan to try, I’m going to order from a specialty shop. It’s made by a European company called Freya. It makes sports bras in G cups so hopefully their bras will provide a better fit and offer more support. In the meantime, I’m going to keep running in my old faithful old school bra. A Diva’s gotta do what a Diva’s gotta do to keep running.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

That’s So Zen

A few weeks ago, an old middle school classmate asked me, “What do I listen to when I run?” My answer was the voices in my head. Seriously one of the benefits of running is working out your frustrations. It’s the way I decompress.

I’m a thinker. Situations from work, home, friends, wherever, run through my mind constantly. Sometimes a good run is the only way to calm the voices so I can focus on the moment I’m in right now, not the boring meeting a work about new policies that don’t make any sense and won’t improve anything. I may be fussing and fighting in my head when I start running but four or five miles later, I’m on cloud nine.

This cycle lets me know for sure there is a runner’s high, a sense of peace, that all is well with the world and that is totally Zen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Overcoming Beginner Running Obstacles

Often I’m asked “How did I start running?” “Did you run track in high school?” The list goes on and on. Unfortunately I did not run track when I was younger although I dreamed of doing it. Actually I didn’t start running on a regular basis until 3 years ago. Before then, I would stop and start. I struggled with many of the same issues those who tell me they’d like to run but don’t struggle with. So I put together a list of the top five I’ve heard and my suggestions for conquering them.

1 – The “Itchies”
When I first experienced the itchies, I freaked out. It was about 6 years ago. I was running on the treadmill in my apartment complex’s fitness center. I was doing my “run during the commercials, walk during the show” routine. All of a sudden my thighs started itching. At first I scratched a little but kept running. After a minute I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped off the treadmill, grabbed my things and attempted to run home but had to start walking when I was about half way there. I jumped in the shower as soon as I walked through the door and scrubbed my thighs until the sensation went away. It was very unsettling. Now when I think back on that day, I laugh at myself, but at the time, I was seriously uncomfortable. It continued to happen from time to time but I’d just tap my legs and keep running or start walking. It went away after a few weeks.

If you’re not familiar with the itchies, as I call them, it’s when you feel an itchy sensation in your thighs when you start running. Sometimes it’s so bad you have to stop running. The itching you feel is caused by expanding capillaries in your legs. When you’re inactive for a while, the capillaries collapse and allow the minimum amount of blood flow needed for a sedentary lifestyle. But when you start exercising the capillaries need to expand to allow more blood to flow throughout your body. The expanding capillaries cause the nearby nerves to send messages to the brain, which is interpreted as an itch. If you stick with running, the itching sensation will go away after a few workouts.

2 – Time
We all live pretty busy lives. Between work and family, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. You may want to start running but don’t know how to fit it into your schedule. My first suggestion is to make a commitment to yourself to make time for you. Easier said than done, I know but you have to do it. Whether it’s early in the morning or on your lunch hour or after work before you pick up the kids, commit to one hour of "me time" at least three to four days a week.

I don’t have kids and I have a pretty supportive husband who understands he may have to cook while I’m running so we’re not eating a late dinner every night. He didn’t complain too much when the alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. when I use to run before work. I’m pretty lucky. But your situation may be different. Instead of making excuses, focus on solutions and stay encouraged. Here are a few suggestions:

Small Kids: Invest in a jogging stroller and take them with you. You’ll still have quality time with your child and you’ll model healthy habits for them at an early age.

Young Kids: Most gyms have kid workout areas or child care. Take advantage of them while you run on the treadmill.

Cooking: If you don’t have a partner who can and/or is willing to cook, try cooking several meals on Sunday and freezing them. That way you’ll be able to quickly make dinner during the week.

Lunch Time: If your company has employee showers, you can run 30 minutes, shower and eat in an hour.

Before Work: Get up early while your family is asleep and run before the household morning routine starts.

After Work: If you get off work an hour before you have to pick up the kids, sneak in a quick 30 minute run.

3 – Support
Friends can help you meet your fitness goals or they can get in the way. When they’re committed, it’s great to have someone to workout with but when they’re flakey, you have to push yourself even harder not to succumb to their laziness. If they blow off a workout, you’re tempted to do the same. Don’t!

Before I truly committed to a healthy lifestyle, I was a fairly flakey workout partner. If my friend said she was tired, I’d stay home. If my husband didn’t feel like going to the gym, I’d stay home and watch TV with him. After a while, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere doing that. I decided I had to do this for me and prayed for the strength to remain committed. From that point on, I would go to the gym with or without my friends. If one wanted to join me, I’d sometimes do back to back workouts. One on my own and one with them, just to make sure I got my workout in.

When I started running three years ago, it was to prepare for a charity 5K I committed to run with a friend. We’d run together on Saturdays and I’d run alone during the week. After the race, she stopped running and I kept going. I tried to start a running club and talked to a few friends who said they’d run with me. Each week different people showed up and many were still in the walk/run stage and I wanted to run/run. I hung with them for about a month until I was encouraged by a friend to join a local running club. It was the best thing I could have done. The coach and my new running friends encouraged and helped me run stronger and longer and achieve a fitness level I never thought I could.

Checking out a local running club can be intimidating if you’re new to running, especially when the club’s website lists 5 and 10 mile runs and 7 minute mile pace groups. But don’t be discouraged, email or call the club officers and ask about beginner runs. Check out the local running store, not the national chain sporting good stores, and ask about running groups. Sometimes the stores have group runs geared to all experience levels.

4 – The Slow Lane
Don’t laugh, but I thought when I started running, I’d be able to run like Jackie Joyner-Kersee. No seriously. I expected to run for miles with ease and fast too. Boy did I want to run fast. It didn’t take long for me to discover I was sorely mistaken. I realized I had to run at my own pace and for me, it was slow. My first 5K time was 36 minutes – that’s an average of about 12 minutes a mile. I told you I was slow. It would take time and hard work for me to get faster. Now it’s no fun watching people run past you. It’s even less fun when they lap you multiple times. Both have happened to me. But my drive to get faster helped me get over those ego bruising moments.

People progress at different rates. If you want to get faster, you have to work harder by doing tempo runs, speed work and hill repeats.

Tempo runs: running for an extended period of time at a rate that is faster than your usual pace

Typical beginner tempo workout
Warm up: 1 mile at 5 mph on the treadmill
Workout: .5 mile at 6 mph on the treadmill; .1 mile at 3.5 mph recovery (Repeat for 2 miles)
Cool down: 1 mile at 5 mph on treadmill

Speed work: quick bursts of speed for one to three minutes
Warm up: 1 mile at 5 mph on the treadmill
Workout: .25 mile at 6.5 or 7 mph on the treadmill; .1 mile at 3.5 mph recovery (Repeat for 2 miles)
Cool down: 1 mile at 5 mph on the treadmill

Hill repeats: running hills will give you the power to run fast on flat courses
Warm up: 1 mile at 5 mph on the treadmill
Workout: .25 mile at 4.5 mph with 5% incline; .1 mile at 3.5 mph recovery (Repeat for 2 miles)
Cool down: 1 mile at 5 mph on the treadmill

Increase your pace as you become stronger.

5 – Stamina
Running is hard or at least I really, really thought so when I started. It’s even harder when you’re not on the treadmill since it does some of the work for you. It can be disheartening when you’re use to running 5 or 10 minutes at a time on the treadmill and you get out on the road and want to stop after 1 minute.

As you continue to run and build your mileage, your stamina will increase. Other factors that will help include getting a good night’s sleep and proper nutrition. Sometimes the desire to walk is mental. Even after 3 years, I always want to start walking during the first mile. I tell myself I’m not tired (and I’m not) and keep going. After 3 or 4 miles, I’m good.

Did you struggle when you first started running? How did you overcome running obstacles?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Flex Diet Update #2

So…about this flexitarian thing. I really want to do it. I mean, it’s not that hard to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat but for some reason, I fell off the bandwagon. I got tired of eating salads, tuna and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Also I don’t know if this was related to my flex ambitions but my nails became brittle and started splitting. After about six weeks, I was pretty much done. So now my goal is to explore more vegetarian options so if or when I try again, I’ll be better prepared. Over the weekend I ate Trader Joe’s meatless corn dogs. They were tasty.

Got any other suggestions? I need them to be easy. Send them my way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fried Chicken Cravings

Every four to six months I get a craving for fried chicken. Usually it’s Popeye’s spicy chicken or extra crispy Kentucky Fried Chicken. Further feeding this recent craving was the arrival of KFC coupons in the mail. Since my husband had to work late this past Friday and I’d be on my own for dinner, I figured it would be a good time to give into my craving. As I pulled into the drive-thru, a small, still voice said “Get the grilled chicken,” but bad Diva shouted, “Get the ‘good’ stuff.” You can guess which voice I listened to.

Why is it that when you finally eat something you’ve been craving for a while, it doesn’t taste as good? That was the case as I chomped away on my extra crispy KFC chicken Friday night. Plus as soon as I finished eating my meal, my stomach started hurting. This always happens. The grease pays me back by upsetting my stomach.

I asked myself, “Why did you do this to yourself?” Each time I give into my fried chicken cravings, I get sick. I hope the next time, about six months from now, I’ll have the strength to say no. My stomach will thank me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Race Calendar - Part I

Decisions, decisions, decisions…I probably should have posted my 2010 racing calendar this back in January but I had no clue what I was going to do. When I read “Your Best Year Ever” in Runner’s World I thought, “Yes, I’m going to do two 5Ks, two 10Ks and four half marathons” and then I came to my senses. I figured it was more realistic to plan for two to three half marathons and about two 5Ks. But the question remained, “What races would I sign up for?” Before I knew it, it was February, I was starting my half marathon training and I still had no idea which races I was going to do. After my friends ran the Surf City Marathon and Half in Huntington Beach, Calif. on February 7 without me, I was really itching to race. So I buckled down and planned out the first half of the year. Here it goes:

April 25: Glass City Half Marathon
June 6: Rock ‘n Roll San Diego

I was in half marathon mode last year and I want to continue that trend. I’m hoping to set new PRs and have lots of fun. I’m really excited about the Rock ‘n Roll race. I’ve wanted to do one for a while and depending how this race goes, I may try to do another one in the second half of the year. So wish me luck. What are your 2010 racing plans?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Snow, Go Away

So what’s up with all this snow? I know it is winter and all but the white stuff has worn out its welcome. Now don’t get me wrong, snow is cool when it’s a few inches and sticks around for a day or two. But when it comes in one foot increments, it gets in the way of my outdoor running routine.

Thirty-two degrees use to be my outdoor running temperature threshold, now it is 20 degrees. I don’t mind running in flurries but a blizzard? I don’t think so. Plus I get annoyed when people don’t shovel their sidewalks. I end up having to slow down to stay on my feet and off the ground.

So I’ve been stuck in treadmill land since the beginning of February. I know treadmill training has its benefits – consistent pace, speed work, intervals, hills – but there are times when I feel like a hamster on a wheel dying to break free.

So snow, you must go. Darn groundhog and your six more weeks of winter.

How are you battling the winter running blues?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Your New Year's Resolution? Ugh, I Don't Make Them

New Year’s resolutions aren’t my thing. To me, it seems like they are made to be broken so why make them. Now I’ll admit I use to make them. The ones I remember all involved some weight loss goal I failed to reach. So I gave up on resolutions years ago but not my commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

For years I struggled with my weight and body image issues. I was always one of the bigger kids in class since I was so tall. As young as 8 years old, I felt fat. I pretty much outgrew children’s clothes by third grade and could barely fit junior’s clothes by middle school.

Secretly I tried to lose weight. I ordered diet books advertised in the back of fashion magazines. I ordered exercise books from Scholastic Book Club. One time I tried starving myself. That didn’t last long. After about 8 hours, I had a bad headache and felt weak. I told myself that was not the method for me. In college, I would work out sporadically with little success. I was 50 pounds overweight when I graduated.

It turns out living on my own was good for me. I still had crappy eating habits at first – pizza and cereal were staples of my diet – but I wasn’t eating as much. When I started working third shift, the excess weight fell off. Fast forward nine years and I’m at a healthy weight and have an active lifestyle. Organic foods make up the bulk of my diet. I eat junk food in moderation and exercise 200 – 300 minutes a week.

So no resolutions for me – just a continued commitment to living a healthy lifestyle, something we can all commit to.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When the GI Tract Attacks

I’ve been debating whether to write about this topic for a while. It’s kinda embarrassing, one of those things you do but you don’t talk about. But after reading “A Few Rules to Run By” in the January issue of “Runner’s World,” I figured why not, the cat’s already out of the bag, so here I go.

There are lots of benefits to running – better health, weight loss, reduced stress, etc. I’ve mentioned them time and time again. But there are some interesting and sometimes unpleasant side effects, namely GI issues or to put it plainly gas. All that bouncing around combined with a healthy, high fiber diet is bound to keep things moving so to speak. You just try to have a bathroom break before heading out for a run and hope for the best.

As you already know, I started running with a new running group several months ago. When I went out on my first group run, I ran with two nice, older guys who were kind enough to slow down and run with me. Our run took us through this nice wooded preserve. It was my first outdoor run after a week of hotels and treadmills and it felt good. I was enjoying the conversation and the scenery. About a mile or so into the run, my nose started to pick up an interesting odor. I think “Did one of these guys pass gas? No, that couldn’t be it. It’s just something in the air.” We kept running along and I smelled it again. I brushed it off again and just kept running. We were about 4.5 miles into the run and then I heard it and thought “Yes, one of these guys is passing gas. I knew it.” I just laughed to myself, kept on going and thought “What a way to break me into the club.”

Now I’ve had my share of GI issues while running. Bathroom pit stops and trying to not eat too close to going for run help. Have any GI stories that you’re brave enough to share?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Falling in Love

I don’t know about you but I remember I would get on my friends’ last nerves each time I started seriously dating a guy. If we are talking about music, I’d chime in “my boyfriend likes that song.” If we were debating basketball, I’d go “oh such and such thinks this team is great.” And I seriously would go on and on no matter how obscure the topic.

In retrospect, I think I do the same thing when it comes to running. I’m just so excited about my new love and I want others to feel the way I do. I’m always trying to work my running and workout schedule into conversation. Then I’ll mention which races I’m doing, running gear – the shoes, the clothes, the gadgets and on and on. Being the good friends they are, they humor me and listen. But deep down, I hope my enthusiasm rubs off on them and they catch running fever too.

It’s like when you get a good deal on a pair of shoes that are to die for, you can’t wait to tell your girlfriends. Well I found a great deal in running that’s to live for and I’m telling everyone. Hopefully, they’ll run out, fall in love and get a good deal too.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Running Goal for 2010 - Just Have Fun!!!

By: CTRun
Special to RunDivaRun

"Whether you are 16 or 67, the desire to hit the road is not easily explained to those who do not run. We understand the pull of the road. The joy of losing yourself in the solitude of a good long distance run, or the sisterhood you experience when you find that great running partner. Running is more than a feat of athleticism, it is therapeutic. There is an unexpected exhilaration that we experience having challenged our personal limitations...Finally proving to ourselves that we can indeed make it to the finish line!"

I purchased a tee shirt with this quote on it in Las Vegas (for the Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half) while shopping with my running partners. For a lot of runners a race expo is a real treat. There you find everything you need to be your best and you are in the company of others who truly understand your passion. The day of the expo I was full of excitement and promise. Unfortunately, my marathon didn't turn out to be all I had expected. I've replayed a pivotal moment - mile 20 - seeing my split of 3 hours and knowing that I only had 50 minutes to run the last 6.2 miles. Knowing that on my best day I've only run a 10k in 47 minutes and thinking, it was impossible. So instead of pushing on, I just STOPPED. For no reason at all, I just STOPPED. It never occurred to me to just to keep running and adjust my goal for the day. I finished the marathon in 4:01, very disappointed in myself.

I've taken a few days to reevaluate my race and my attitude and I decided that I enjoyed running more when I did it for pure fun. On August 2, 2007, almost 2 1/2 years ago, I walked out my front door and jogged 3 miles (my legs itched the whole way). Two days later, I went to an area park and joined the local running club. I was so nervous, but the coach told me to run with two ladies and I was in love with running from that moment on. In fact, I was so in love that I ran my first 10K, half marathon and marathon all within my first 10 months as a runner. By my second year, I was placing and winning races in my age group. Every race was a PR and I was on top of the world. But then I started having injuries, minor and major setbacks with my feet, hamstrings and then calf muscles. And when I would have a bad race I would pout and over analyze the situation, which brings me to where I am now.

My coach always told us that you are novice until you've run for 3 years. "The body needs time to strengthen and grow the proper muscle," he said. He also told me that I only do things one way - "the hard way." Now I understand what he meant. As I enter my third year as a runner, I've learned a lot about myself. I've always had an all or nothing personality and after 42 years of living I realize I'm missed out on some things because when I focus on a goal I get tunnel vision. I now know it's not the destination, but the journey is what's more important. So in my running and in my life, I’m going to have more fun. Take myself less seriously and enjoy this crazy journey called life.