Wednesday, March 27, 2013

22 miles done...and exhale :)

The 22 miler has been completed! It started off slow, but I eventually found my groove. It was hot and I drank way more water than I had every other long run. Yeah, I never claimed to be the most observant person in the world. Stubborn? Yes. Single-minded? Yeah, that too. Determined? You bet your a$$ I am.
The beginning of Heartbreak Hill

And I was determined to get through the 22 miler with gusto. I don't know that I necessarily would have given it that descriptor post-run, but I got through it and that my friends, it what matters. The run was made infinitely better when Graham joined me for the final 3 miles home. I always make myself run up this one uphill canyon near my house as my final 1.5-2 miles of every long run - not because I'm a masochist, but because like anyone who has heard anything about the Boston Marathon, I'm terrified of Heartbreak Hill.

Heartbreak Hill is the last of the four Newton hills which begin at around the 16-mile mark. Heartbreak Hill only rises 88 vertical feet to just outside Boston College, but it comes at a point in the race (between miles 20 and 21) where any incline at all will likely seem an impossibility. From what I've heard and read, the hills leading up to the final one aren't exactly pieces of cake either. So with that in mind, I run up the terrible canyon every run, hoping to prepare myself for greatness (or at least completion) when it comes to Heartbreak. We shall see :)

Thinking about the race is still nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. I think I'm prepared, though I'm currently battling hopefully my last of the many common overuse injuries I've had the pleasure of dealing with throughout my training (runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, and now hip bursitis). It's always an inner battle to give your body rest when the mind still wants to go, but I suppose every athlete has to deal with that. So, I'll do what I can from now until April 15 and see where the chips land!

...and eat plenty of burritos along the way :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The taper is in sight...and Graham is awesome!

It's getting close to taper time...well, relatively close anyways. This was my  last 20 miler (there were 3 total) and the only long runs left are 22, then 18, then 12...then RACE DAY. Figuring that it had been two weeks since my last 20 miler, I decided to repeat the route I'd run for my first 20 miles and see if I couldn't cut off a little time. I felt a hell of a lot better this time around, due largely in part to figuring out some fuel sources that didn't make me cramp up etc. and ended cutting off about a minute and a half. So, though I was hoping that I would have dropped tiny bit more time, I was happy with it. Here's the run-down:


  • Took a minute and a half off of my previous time for this route
  • Didn't sh*t my pants or yell at anyone
  • Rachael Way is a genius and salted, peanut butter-filled pretzel bites are an awesome mid-run snack (I had bought the un-salted ones the first time I tried them and that was a huge's all about the salt)

  • Almost got eaten by an angry dog tied up to a trailer parked by the end of the Boardwalk
  • Was straight up hungry two miles into, digestion system?
  • Tasked with preparing my own ice bath or waiting until Graham came back (he had parked his car by the ocean so he could meet me for the last three miles...then he had to run back down to the car solo), I decided to be a super self-sufficient runner and go get my own ice etc. I went to 7-11 instead of Safeway and finding that they only sold 7 pound bags of ice, opted to buy two and call it good...that was instead of the two 20 pound bags that Graham usually gets. I knew what I was doing, I wasn't confused...I just didn't want to try and carry any more than those two, tiny bags. So I made my bath with 14 pounds of ice instead of the usual 40! And uh, yeah, let's just say that by the end of the 10 minutes I spent soaking in the tub, the paltry 14 pounds was long gone. That will probably be the last time I'm allowed to buy the ice unsupervised.


  • My kick ass husband ran the last three miles with me, encouraging and pushing me to maintain my pace as we made our way up the final mile and a half uphill canyon trail. Particularly mile 19 of this run smashed my previous split and happily contributed to the slightly faster finish. 
  • Drank hot chocolate during the cold bath (realistically can't call it an ice bath) and read the Sunday comics...not too shabby.
  • Ate my customary post-run shrimp burrito and chips, then went and saw Warm Bodies with G, then got delicious Verve coffee flavored ice cream from the Penny Ice Creamery kiosk downtown, then went home and had cereal for dinner like a little kid. It was frickin' awesome.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fartleks...terrible name, amazing results!

You know when you go on a run and it just feels kind of blah? Kind of like you're slogging through knee deep mud... Well, that was my Sunday 13 miler, my Tuesday 11 miler and my Wednesday 6 miler. Not only was each less than inspiring, but I had the same average pace for all of them...seriously. The pace was okay for the 13, not great for the 11 miler and pretty poor for the 6. I finished the 6 miler thinking that my quads had turned to iron and that I would probably never run again if I could help it.

But then Thursday came and with it, the waffling commenced. Would I do the 8 mile fartlek that I was supposed to or push it off for a day and wallow in my three woeful outings? I decided to push it off and wallow. But then my sagacious husband reminded me that oh yeah, I was running 5 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday and that having a rest day in between the fartlek and the weekend fun was a pretty good idea. He urged me to just get out there, have fun and knock it out. Somewhat bolstered by his rationality and certainty that I would not die if I had to run one more step, I slumped out the door.

Fartlek Definition: A fartlek is similar to interval training in that you alternate short bursts with your regular running or slower jogging recovery intervals. There's no predetermined schedule to follow and you set your own interval speeds and lengths in response to how you're feeling throughout the run. It dramatically helps me concentrate on feeling my pace and my physical response to it...thereby better developing my own self awareness and pace judgement skills.

I'd struck a bargain with myself that if I did the fartlek on Thursday as opposed to delaying until Friday, I'd allow myself to do it on a flat route. Resigned to "knocking it out", I decided to run along the end of West Cliff Drive and into Lower Wilder Ranch. It's a gorgeous (see below) run and mercifully flat. The relatively smooth course, combined with the variety of a fartlek run successfully broke my streak of crappy runs. I finally had some fun running again! I love fartleks for that because their structure puts the onus on you and so you're constantly tuned in with your body, seeing if you're ready to go hard again. The run was some of the most connected I've felt to my own running in a long time.

Thank god for Fartleks...and for Graham who is my constant sissy barometer.

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Lower Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz, CA

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's Hammer Time!

Though I didn't hit the time I'd been shooting for by a long shot, the 13 miles this Sunday felt decent. For some reason, I insist on picking routes with significant elevation gain/loss, which is a good thing...I think. The main issue though, is that I expect times that, for me, probably require a flat course. Oh well. If we're being frank, I'm sure I won't change my ways or adjust my expectations. Fortunately there were some good parts about the run as well :)

1. Hammer Gel
I'd heard so many positive reviews from runners with sensitive systems, but had kind of shrugged it off as just another gel that would give me cramps. While at my favorite running store, Running Revolution in Capitola, I queried the seriously badass employees (one was a marathoner many times over and the other had recently completed his first Ironman) about Hammer products. They both gushed and I had liked the Hammer Endurolyte tablets (electrolyte mid-run replenishment), so I somewhat grudgingly bought an Espresso Hammer gel. It was AWESOME! Seriously awesome in fact! Not only did it taste good (imagine that!), but it wasn't nearly as thick or slimy feeling as the Roctane GU I'd barely been able to choke down on a run weeks ago. And the best part of all being that it didn't trigger cramps, aches or sh*ts. All good in my book. 

Thus far, Hammer gels join a diced up PB sandwich on my short list of fuels that work for me. A friend also recommended those little pretzels filled with peanut butter as an alternative to the sandwich. She said that the added salt and crunch were great on the run; makes sense to me and since those things are delish, I'll be trying those soon too.

2. KT Tape
I got a freebie sample from Running Revolution of KT tape, which is similar to Rocktape. I'd been having some pain in the arch of my right foot since it developed around mile 18 of my first 20 mile run...greeeeeeeat. They showed me how to wrap my foot with the KT tape to support my arch and it was awesome. I didn't have any discomfort on the 13 miler and the tape didn't move an inch. 

I'd discussed my arch issue with a Running Rev employee who also happens to go to the same CF gym I do and he gave me an awesome tip. I'd been attacking my arch with a lacrosse ball at night to try and massage the pain away and not really icing it. He said that an overuse injury like that needs a lot of icing and a little compression, but not a lot. So he recommended that I fill a plastic water bottle with water and a little rubbing alcohol and stick it in the freezer. The alcohol keeps the water from freezing solid, making it an awesome icing tool. I would roll it underneath my foot with enough pressure to depress the malleable ice in the bottle while I moved; this provided enough compression on my arch while still icing the crap out of it. Highly recommend it!

The run down:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Graham's Recipe for the Perfect Ice Bath

As promised, this is G's recipe for the perfect ice bath. Don't get me wrong, ice baths are horribly, terrifyingly awful while you're in them...and yeah, I'll admit that during my first one, I cried...but just a little. I'd thought that my toes were going to explode in a frostbitten fury, though fortunately for everyone, they did not.

WOO HOO ice baths!!!

But before I give ice baths too great of a sell (ha), here's the recipe:

  1. Buy A LOT of ice. We go with two 20 lb bags and that's proved to be plenty.

  2. Fill the tub with cool water. We've found that it doesn't have to be freezing cold yet and if you make it cool water as opposed to straight up cold water, it's infinitely easier for the victim, ahem (cough, cough), I mean athlete to get into the tub and keep the process moving along. I try to chug water (or whatever recovery liquid is your fav) and eat something...perhaps a banana, isn't that right @SkyHighTrails? :)

  3. Get into the tub and get ready! This actually isn't bad because you're still nice and sweaty from the run. As a quick side note, I've read that not everyone does the ice bath immediately after a run, but I do for a couple reasons. Mainly I just want to get the ordeal over with, but also I find myself thinking about the ice bath for the last couple miles of the run...and more astonishing still, actually looking forward to it. Crazy. Also, at the end of a run drenched in sweat, I want to get the ice bath over with so I can get in the shower and go to town with the body wash.

  4. Add the ice! Yeah, not going to lie, this is the sh*tty part. I've found that if you adequately fill the tub - so that the water level is significantly above the top of your thighs when you relax them - it greatly lessens the discomfort of actually adding all the ice. The first ice bath we did didn't have quite enough water in it, so the ice was basically just heaped on top of my legs, which felt as terrible as it sounds. So make sure the water level is nice and high and don't worry, it will still get cold enough! :)

    Also, I've found that keeping my socks on for the bath helps tremendously; I kept them on this last Sunday and voilĂ , no toes threatening to explode with cold AND no crying. I also read that some people like to sip on hot drinks while in the tub, but I haven't tried it yet; it stands to reason and sounds lovely!

  5. Try to relax :) I know, I know, sounds impossible, which is exactly what I fussed to Graham. But if you can convince yourself to relax into it, even a little, it's way less painful.

  6. Sit tight for 10 minutes. I force Graham to stay in the bathroom and entertain me (aka, please god, just distract me!) for those long ten minutes. The last ice bath included G hand feeding me tortilla chips out of the deliciously greasy paper bag from my favorite taqueria - a good preview of the burrito to come - a pretty well established post long run routine now.

  7. CAREFULLY get out of the tub. I almost did a face plant getting out of the tub the first time. You're pretty much numb from your waist down, so take it nice and slow.

  8. Shower and stretch/roll. I do a little stretching in the shower, then get out and get to pounding that burrito I might have mentioned earlier. Once I'm fed, I stretch a little more and try to do a thorough job of the foam roller on my legs. For an interesting and informative article on foam rolling (instructions how to as well as the reasons why), check this out.
All in all, I have to say that ice baths rock. I've read a few articles that advise that ice baths shouldn't become a routine after every long run as sometimes you should allow your body to restore itself - essentially forcing your body to recover from your training and ensuring the continued efficacy of that training. That makes sense, but as I prepare for Boston, I'm absolutely allowing myself to take an ice bath on any run 20 miles or longer because it feels good...okay, fine and because I like all the attention and praise from G during the process.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

20 miler round 2

Woo hoo, another 20 miler in the books! I decided to up the ante a bit this time around and made my route include about four miles of basically UP at the very beginning. It was tough and not surprisingly, did take a toll on my legs and time, but I was glad that I went that way. I also made two decisions that made my run fun...amazingly enough.

1. Book tape
For all of my training up until this weekend, I had been listening to music - A LOT of 2Pac, Snoop Dogg (excuse me, Snoop Lion), Method Man & Redman mixed with Papa Roach, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Alien Ant Farm - and that had worked well for the last few months. I kept my runs gangsta and rocked my way up the hills. However, I finally reached a point where I'd heard every song on the ipod too many times. I knew I'd hit this point when if I ever heard a song that was on my ipod while not running- on the radio, in a store, etc. - I immediately got tired as though I had been running and wanted to take a nap. So, I switched to a booktape and voilĂ , the time passed in warp speed.

2. Peanut Butter Sandwich Bites
So, I've been struggling (and whining) about my fruitless search for a fuel source that didn't plague me with stomach cramps or side aches and/or inspire a case of the urgent shits. I'd tried sports beans (they were the best, but still gave me a side ache), honey stinger energy chews (wowza, those combined with the pressure of a waterbelt...yikes) and Roctane GU. None really worked and I still hit the wall on long runs. However, taking a suggestion from my sister in law's husband, I made half a peanut butter sandwich, cut it up into little squares and stuffed them all into a plastic bag and that into the tiny pouch on my handheld water bottle  Fortunately peanut butter sandwiches are delicious smashed or not and best part of all, I felt GREAT after eating them on the run. I pounded all the squares and probably could have brought more! This was seriously exciting as I didn't hit the wall and I felt good eating...I'd feared I'd never find anything that worked. 

Those two changes made this run leagues better than my first 20 miler...particularly at the end. G met me along the run numerous times with his replenishment suite: chapstick, gum, lotion, snacks and water refills. As has become our tradition after the really long runs, he got me into the ice bath and rewarded me with a fat shrimp burrito after the ordeal. I hate to say it, but ice baths totally work. They help wildly with leg soreness and the "dead" feeling post long run; don't get me wrong, my legs were still extremely tired, but after the bath, they didn't ache or feel all that sore...just tired. 

I'll detail Graham's recipe for the perfect ice bath on the next post :)