Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fueling for the Long Run

Sooooo humid and muggy today!

I ran nine miles on the Towpath with the Turtles.  The last part of the run was a half-mile hill (5% grade), so we got to finish strong by running downhill.

After the run, we had a lovely tour of the Mustill Store, one of Akron's FREE museums that show the history of the canal and lock system.  Bonus:  the store sells popsicles!  Anyway, the nice docent talked to us about what the canal used to look like in the Akron area.  He also explained where the Blue Line for the Akron Half and Full Marathons used to go in previous years, and in return, we sweated all over the floor of the museum.

The Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1870s

The Ohio and Erie Canal today

Sheila, the coach for the Towpath Turtles and OneLife Fitness, talked to us about finding the best pre-run fuel for long run days.  As this is one area that I feel I have covered in my fitness regime, I thought I would write about it today.

My long, slow run is always on a Sunday because that is the day that my husband is home from work, so he can be with the kids while I am out for a few hours.  I look forward to Sundays because I can spend some quality time by myself (or with fellow runners), and because I actually get to EAT YUMMY FOOD for breakfast.  Normally, during the week I run on an empty stomach, and after the run I eat oatmeal with fruit or cereal with fruit, but Sunday is my day to eat what I want, and what I want is a bagel with cream cheese.

Hello, Beautiful.  Come to Mama.
I have a Panera just down the street from me, and my husband has NO PROBLEMS going to get bagels for the family, so I have made Panera bagels and cream cheese a part of my long, slow distance (LSD!) for three years now.  I am partial to blueberry bagels, and my husband loves the chocolate chip bagels.

It was incredibly lucky for me that Panera has decided to sponsor the Akron Marathon this year, and even better when they asked me if Panera's meals were a part of my training for the Half Marathon.  Ummm, yeah!  So, now I get to share my blog with all of you who are training for running the Blue Line.  (I received a gift card to Panera in order to supplement my training meals, but all opinions are my own.  The only way I'll ever unabashedly shill for a company is if it's a WINE COMPANY, and even then it has to be a wine I like.  I'm still waiting for that opportunity to explain how wine is an important part of my training.)

In any case, the bagel with a shmear of cream cheese has about 440 calories, and with a cup of hazelnut coffee, I am raring to go for at least six miles.  Panera has a training menu for the Akron marathon, and it does have some really interesting choices for pre- and post-run fuel, but I am hooked on the bagel.  Not only does it fuel my body properly, it perks me up at 5:30 in the morning on a Sunday, and it gives me a reason to look forward to the long run.

The most important thing about food/nutrition choices is that you have to experiment until you find something that works for your body and what you intend to do.  I know runners who eat bananas with peanut butter, English muffins, oatmeal. . . you name it.  If it helps your body to be strong and run efficiently, then you should eat it.

The second most important thing about food/nutrition choices is that when you find something that works for your runs and your races, DON'T CHANGE IT!!!  I would never decide to change up my pre-run breakfast for a race; that's a bunch of craziness waiting to happen.

So. . . to sum up:

Pre-run fuel:  Panera bagel with plain cream cheese (about a tablespoon), hazelnut coffee with Thin Mint creamer

Fuel during run:  Chocolate Outrage GU (see my post about fueling during the run)

Post-run recovery:  1 cup of tortellini salad.  Somebody should tape my mouth shut.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  

Maybe by next week I will be psychologically prepared enough to examine my stupid food choices after the long run.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Running the Blue LIne

Today I ran a portion of the Akron Blue Line with the Towpath Turtles.  The Blue Line refers to an actual blue line painted on the roads around Akron to guide runners for the Akron Marathon.

This is EXACTLY how I look (like a BOSS)  running the Blue Line.   Just kidding.  This is Diane Nakuri, but that is really the Blue Line she is running in the Akron Marathon.
This really is EXACTLY how I look running the Blue Line.  Akron Marathon 2012, running the half.
Photo credit:  Christa Hammontree

At various points of the year, Akron runners like to go over parts of it to prepare for races.  There are many advantages to a Blue Line Run:

1.  Pre-mapped route with easy-to-determine mileage

2.  Runners can preview any part of the run by looking on YouTube.

3.  Shakes up the long run (remember last week's post?)

4.  Builds excitement for the upcoming race (The Akron Marathon/Half Marathon/Relay is on September 27, 2014.  Click here for more info.)

5.  Builds pride in community

The route that I ran today is particularly meaningful to me.  It is the route I ran when I first went ten miles (without ever thinking I could do so).  It is the same route I ran when I wrote my first blog post two years ago.  Today was the first time I've run it since I broke my foot, and I felt GREAT.  I am especially proud of the fact that while I brought my music, and I had it prepped, I never actually put the earbuds in and listened to it.  I talked with the Turtles, and when I didn't talk (which was actually for most of the ten miles), I concentrated on my form and my breathing.  It was surprisingly peaceful inside my head today.  Huh.

Pre-run fuel:

1 Panera blueberry bagel with cream cheese

Coffee with Girl Scout Thin Mints creamer (oh man, I am addicted to this)

Fuel at Mile 6:  Chocolate Outrage GU energy gel

Plenty of water throughout, thanks to Jone, who had a mobile water stop.

Post-run Fuel: Leftover fettucine Alfredo with broccoli.  Hangs head in shame

I clearly have work to do on the post-run fuel.  More on that in my next post.

Thank you to the Towpath Turtles for letting me run with them on this humid, but still beautiful day!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shake up the Long Run

Are you tired of the same routine every day?  Do you have one beloved neighborhood route that you run all the time?  How about if you try to shake things up once in a while?

Distance runners get especially tired of their "long run" routes, possibly because after two hours on the road, we get bored anyway.  I know that I need something to be excited about on Sundays in order to get up at five in the morning to prepare for my lsd.  No, peeps, I do not indulge in acid; LSD stands for long, slow distance run.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am so. bored. with. running.

What helps me is having a different route to run each week.  I can still run my beloved neighborhood loop or do four strenuous, hilly miles on Sand Run path during the week, but Sundays need to be different.  Think about what makes a long run tiresome for you.  Is it having to carry water/fuel/tons of Kleenex?  Shhh, I have sinus issues; don't judge.  Is it not having access to a bathroom when you think you will need it?  Maybe it's that your pace is different than most in your running group?

The solution to all of these problems could be running a loop.  Now, loops can be monotonous, so I would not suggest running them every week, but once in a while they can be a treat on the long run.  Don't want to carry stuff?  No problem--stash your loot on the loop and revisit when you wish.  Is your pace faster/slower than others in your group?  No problem--run the opposite way on the loop to catch up and then continue running.  Also, many runners will accommodate slower/faster paces if they know that it's just for a mile or two.  Likewise, you can choose a faster partner and keep up for that one loop knowing that you can always slow down later.  You may find yourself running with a different partner for every loop.  How's that for shaking things up?

Today I ran a 1.8 mile loop at Hudson Springs Park with The Towpath Turtles.  The Turtles were going to run five loops, and I ran six.  We put all of our water, bug spray, fuel, and whatnot on a picnic table along with a board with our names on it.  Every time we passed the table, we would stop and make a tally mark next to our names to keep the numbers straight.  Genius!

Hudson Springs Park Trail in November
Hudson Springs in November.  Photo Credit:  Kevin Payravi

I really enjoyed this for several reasons:  1) Hudson Springs has a very pretty route going through the woods and around a lake, 2)the path is quite hilly, but not so much that I had to walk it (like on a trail), and 3) I got to run with different people all the time.  This was my morning to catch up with Jen  and Kathy, and we had great conversations.  When they got tired of me, they told me to move on, and I did.

Running a loop was a great way for me to shake up my long/slow, and it was fun to connect with other runners without worrying about pace.  In fact, my Garmin blew out halfway through the run (because we ran in a rainstorm), and I didn't care because I knew what the distance would be, and I could just estimate the total time.

I wonder where I'll run next week.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Race Recap: Bay Days 5 Miler

Happy Independence Day!

"You're a grand, old flag; you're a high-flyin' flag, and forever in peace may you wave!"
Today I celebrated my freedom to run in the Bay Days Five-Miler in Bay Village, Ohio.  The call went out to area running clubs to submit teams of five or more to compete against each other.  The Ohio Runner's Network (TORN) stepped up to the challenge.

Mandy, Michael, me, Joy, Tracy, and Brad

I was nervous about this race for several reasons:

1.  As I wrote in my previous post (I Am Jinxed), I have been afraid that my LEFT foot is broken.  I worried that this might be the end of running for a while, so I've been working out on a recumbent bike and weightlifting for the past week.

2.  I ran with some really fast people today.  My team members are beasts, and it was evident when we arrived that this small race was full of badasses.  Specifically, most of the badasses had the last name of Zangmeister.  It's the only name in Bay Village, apparently.  Anyway, I didn't want to embarrass my team.

3.  Not knowing the race, I was worried about the availability of bathrooms (after an hour drive) and parking.  Both weren't an issue, thank goodness.

4.  I am a neurotic freak, and I just worry a lot.

Before I tell you about the race, I want to tell you about what happened at the track two days ago.  It was my first day of seasonal speed and hill training with OneLife Fitness Coaching, and the first day always means assessments.  I hadn't eaten since breakfast, but I knew I wanted to avoid bonking so I ate a snack fifteen minutes before the workout.  When it came time to run two timed miles around the track, I was ready.  Too ready.  I took off like a shot, and I ran the first lap at a 7:42/mile pace.  The second lap I slowed it to an 8:00/mile pace, and the third I was at 8:15/mile.  After the fourth lap,  I just. . .stopped.  I couldn't go on.

"What are you doing?" Sheila (my coach) asked me.

"Can't. Do. It," I panted, leaning against the fence, "Can't. Go. On."

Sheila shook her head and said, "The clock is still running.  You can do it.  Go."  So I did.

It was really stupid of me to run out so fast when I knew I couldn't sustain it.  I know what a good pace for me is, and I know how far to push myself.  Clearly I needed a smack in the head to remind me to stop being an idiot.

It was was with this experience in mind that I set off in the five-miler.  The gun went off, and so did I.  I took off after Joy, who is a speed demon, and then I heard Sheila's voice in my head saying,"Run smart.  You know what your pace should be.  Don't mess around," so I let Joy go.  It took me the first mile to dial it back to a sustainable pace.  Then I started thinking about how and when I should push myself.  I experimented with surges where I ran faster in the first half of each mile, and then I slowed it down in the second half.  I liked this because it felt like I was giving myself a little reward in each mile.

One thing I am really proud of is that my last mile was my fastest by about twenty seconds.  Negative splits, anyone?

The course was really flat and pretty, running through the neighborhoods of Bay Village.  The weather was PERFECT, in the sixties and not too much hot sun.  I ran through three sprinklers, waved to some little kids, and high-fived a member of the military in uniform, thanking him for his service.  I finished my race with watermelon, a popsicle, and my TORN friends.

We are happy it's over!
This race helped me to gain some information about myself.  I finished very strong, and I suspect that I could have pushed myself a wee bit more, maybe a few more seconds per mile.  This is good to know because I was starting to lose some confidence in my running abilities.

I also enjoyed this race because my team mates are awesome people.  I look forward to running more races with TORN in the future, specifically races that involve lots of chocolate.  I'm looking at you, Hot Chocolate 15k.