Learning to Love Running in the Rain

I didn’t used to be a big fan of running in the rain unless it was summer time. Warm rain doesn’t bother me nearly as much as cold rain. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of running in the rain on a hot summer day, feeling the rain drops wash away the sweat, jumping through puddles like a kid, and finding that rainbow when the rain stops. While I’m still not a huge fan of running in the rain during the spring or fall, I’ve found myself more likely to do so as I’ve gotten older.

Inevitably, it rains quite a bit where I live in the spring. I used to run on the treadmill if it was raining, particularly if it was raining hard. This spring, I’ve run in the rain so much I’ve strung a line in my backyard so I can hang my soaked running clothes to dry afterwards (assuming it’s stopped raining). They just don’t seem to dry out that quickly if I hang them over the bathroom shower, so outside they go now.

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April showers bring May flowers!

Recently, my daughter and I were running together and we were supposed to go for 7 miles. It was sprinkling but wasn’t coming down that hard when we were leaving the house. I put on a hat, my Aftershokz headphones, put my phone in my armband, and off we went. After about 3 miles, it started to downpour. Hard. So hard I was seriously concerned about my phone getting ruined and my headphones as well. I put the headphones under my hat, on top of my head, to give them a little more protection, but there was nothing I could do about my phone except hope it would stay dry in the zippered compartment it was in on my armband.

We were doing some speed work that day, which was comprised of five one-mile repeats after a warm-up and before a cool-down. There were deep puddles all over the sidewalk, road, and grass; literally everywhere we were stepping, there was no avoiding these puddles so we didn’t even try after a while. Our feet were long-ago soaked anyway so what did it matter at that point.

I had one of the best speed work sessions I’ve had in a long time on that day. Never would I have thought that pouring rain would be so conducive to a speedy run. It’s not like I was only out for a mile and sprinted home. This was also the type of rain where I had to look a few times to make sure my shorts hadn’t gotten pushed down (or up) from the sheer force of the rain since it was raining that hard.

My daughter has always enjoyed the rain, whether it’s been to walk in the rain with an umbrella, jump in puddles when she was younger, or to watch the dark storm clouds roll in. Since she’s become a regular runner, I’ve never once seen her shy away from a run in the rain, unless it’s a thunderstorm. So she certainly wasn’t going to say no to our recent run together in the rain. Running in the rain is probably one of her favorite running conditions. I was thinking about all of that when we were out running because I saw her mood change from cranky and irritable at the beginning to calm and happy after a couple of miles.

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Soaking wet after a run in the rain!

While I was running I was also thinking about how just going out and embracing the weather conditions helps with races. I don’t remember that many races where it was raining but there were a couple. One of the worst for me, the Run the Reagan Half Marathon just outside Atlanta, Georgia was absolutely miserable because it was a cold rain on top of the boring course. In fact, the only other race I can think of where it rained during the race was the Newport Half Marathon in Rhode Island but I actually liked that race, unlike the one in Georgia. The scenic course, filled with mansions, water views, and historic sites in Newport made all the difference. Plus I wasn’t freezing cold during the race in Rhode Island like I was in Georgia.

Back to my point about just sucking it up and running in poor weather conditions. If you never run in the rain and it rains on race day, you’ll be far less capable mentally of dealing with that than if you would have run in the rain while training for the race. Likewise with snow, heat, humidity, and windy days. If you don’t ever plan on running a race during the winter months, running in the snow shouldn’t be a concern, or if you don’t ever race during summer months, you don’t need to be concerned about running in hot, humid conditions. But if you have races planned for upcoming years during the summer or winter months, it’s best to mentally prepare yourself by running in those conditions beforehand.

You might find you enjoy running in conditions you thought you hated. Or you might find it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. The latter is the case for me when it comes to running in the rain and I’m even finding myself starting to enjoy it although I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet.

What about you? Do you enjoy running in the rain or do you hate it? Have your feelings changed over the years when it comes to running in the rain?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Missing a race, training for another that may not happen, and other running-related things I’ve been doing lately

Hey guys! Usually my posts aren’t of this nature, where I just chat about what’s going on with me, although I have historically posted some like this, usually a couple of weeks before an upcoming race. So, if you follow my blog, or maybe even if this is the very first post you’ve ever read of mine you may still be aware that I have a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. I was supposed to run a half marathon in New Mexico in April, which would have been state number 48 but that was postponed until this fall.

Of course I was disappointed but then I realized it’s actually rescheduled on a weekend that I can go, assuming the pandemic is under control and people can fly for vacations again. So, hurray for some good news! Now that leaves my other remaining states of Minnesota and Iowa. As of right now when I’m typing this, neither of those races have been cancelled. The race in Minnesota is scheduled for Father’s Day and the one in Iowa is scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

My feeling at the moment is that anything can happen in a month. Look what happened between mid-March and mid-April. Not only states in the US but entire countries shut their borders, people were told to only go outside when it was absolutely necessary and some weren’t allowed to go outside even for a walk. Then around early-to-mid-May states and countries began opening back up gradually.

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This begs the question, would I be willing to fly to Minnesota in June? Absolutely, without a doubt, YES! I have no fear of “catching” the virus, whether it’s from an airport, airplane, rental car, hotel room, etc. The way I feel, I could just as easily have someone cough or sneeze on me in a grocery store and get the virus then. In short, I am not living in fear of contracting this Coronavirus. I’ve been wearing a mask in public and taking all of the other necessary precautions to protect myself and others but I’m also not going to stay in my home forever because I’m afraid to go outside and live my life. The way I look at it, if I contract COVID-19, I’ll deal with it then. I’m still young and healthy and not immunocompromised nor do I live with anyone who is elderly or immunocompromised so this is easy for me to say. I’m sure if I were at risk or lived with someone who was, I would feel differently.

Back to running, though. Like I said, my half marathon that was scheduled for April was rescheduled, but by the time it was rescheduled, I was already well into my training plan. I continued “training” for the race even after it was rescheduled, but instead of running 13.1 miles on the date that was supposed to be race day, I just ran 10 miles, if I recall. After that, I took one week off running entirely, as I do after every race (I prefer to take two weeks off but in this case there wasn’t enough time) and jumped right into half marathon training for the race in Minnesota in June.

I’m in my peak training weeks now and to be honest, things couldn’t be going better for me. I was supposed to run 9 miles on a Tuesday last week, which wouldn’t have happened if I was at work (I’ve been working from home, like most people) because there wouldn’t have been enough time in the day with my commute and everything else. However, being at home meant for once I could actually complete the entire 9 mile training run, instead of cutting it short like I would have in the past.

Another thing I’ve been doing much more of since I’ve been working from home and only leaving my house once every couple of weeks to go to the grocery store is to run more with my daughter. She’s in high school and is also training for the half marathon in Minnesota. She’s been running for several years and has run a couple of half marathons before but I’ve seen her running times go through the roof these last couple of months. Whereas she used to struggle to maintain a 9-minute mile for more than a few miles, now her easy pace is more like 8:45-minute miles and she recently averaged that on a 12-mile run with me. Not only is she getting faster, she’s pushing me to get faster as well.

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I’ve also been running more with my super-speedy dog, a lab-mix named Chile whose greatest joy in life is to run with me. When she realizes I’m getting her leash to take her on a run, she spins in circles and her happiness is palpable. I feel super guilty when I can’t take her with me, like the other day when I had gotten a couple of blood blisters on my fingers from a previous run with her (she saw a squirrel and darted for it, jarring my fingers) and I needed more time to heal. Usually by now in May it’s hotter than what it’s been, otherwise I would have had to have stopped running with her at least a couple of weeks ago due to the heat. Still, inevitably it’s going to get hot and stay hot in the next couple of weeks most likely so her days of running with me are limited.

One thing I’ve also been working on is my hip flexibility. I’ve been good about continuing to do yoga stretches regularly and once a week I’ll do a yoga session of about 45 minutes to an hour, which is what I used to do pre-pandemic, only it was at a gym with an instructor. BUT, now I can actually almost stack my bent legs on top of each other without the top knee at an embarrassingly high angle above the ground. Now the top knee is at a more reasonable angle and I look like most everyone else in my yoga class used to look when we’d do the pose in class. This is called double pigeon or fire log pose, if you do yoga. Here’s a link:  Double pigeon (fire log pose). Most people probably would take one look at that and say, what’s the big deal? I can easily do that. For me, it seemed like a “pie in the sky” kind of dream to be able to do it because my hips have always been incredibly tight, even as a kid.

The final thing I’ve been working on that’s running-related is updating my blog. I went through each post for all of the half marathons I’ve run and corrected some of the spelling or other errors and made sure the links to races were still active links. I’m sure there are still things that need to be corrected but it’s as good as it’s going to get for now and is better than it was. It’s something that desperately needed done but honestly probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the pandemic, so I guess that’s one good thing to come out of all of this. I have a page with links to all of my half marathons that you can find by clicking here.

So, yeah, that’s about all I’ve been up to when it comes to all things running-related. For now, I’m continuing with the plan to run the half marathon in Minnesota next month. As I said earlier, I realize a lot can happen in a month, but all I can do in the meantime is continue to prepare for the race. One mantra I sometimes fall back on when things get tough during a run is “Just keep running” to the tune of Dory who kept saying, “Just keep swimming” in the movie Finding Nemo and that’s how I feel right now, I need to just keep running.

I know races everywhere have been cancelled or postponed but do you have a race you’re currently training for that you’re hoping you’ll actually be able to run in person (not a virtual race)?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

How to Be a Runner (Borrowed from Runner’s World)

If you’ve read Runner’s World magazine, you’ve most likely seen their spotlight on a runner on the last page called “How to Be a Runner.” Over the years, they’ve featured famous runners to everyday runners. I always like to read this section and I feel like it’s a fun way to get to know other runners, which is why I thought it would be fun to do here. The idea is to choose one of the word prompts that you feel best describe you. Some of the words are vague and others are more obvious. Here’s mine with the ones I chose highlighted in orange:

Wave                Nod

Heart Rate       Feel (1)

Lead                 Follow

PR                     Finish (2)

Stride               Glide

Athleisure       Sweats

Gel                    Chews (3)

Hat                    Gloves

Morning          Night

Swift                Strong

Struggle           Slay

Hot (4)              Cold

Low Socks       Tall Socks

Shoe Store       Online

Uphill               Downhill

5k                      Half Marathon

GPS                   Naked

Stop (5)            Go

Start                 Finish

Heel                  Toe

Calves              Quads

Headphones    Inner Voices (6)

Bagel                 Banana

Treadmill         Frostbite

Medal               T-shirt

Warm Up         Cool Down

Distance (7)     Time

400s                  Hills

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My daughter picked these flowers for me during one of my races

Let me explain:

(1) I tried heart rate training before and just didn’t keep it up long enough to see results. (2) When you run enough races for as long as I have, you realize you can’t PR all the time. (3) I’ve tried a bunch of different gels and chews and the only ones I can stomach are by Honey Stinger, which I take on all of my long runs. (4) I do much better in hot weather than cold weather. (5) I stop at all stop signs, lights, and road crossings; there are far too many distracted drivers out there. (6) I like to run my long runs with my AfterShokz to listen to podcasts but the rest of the time I don’t listen to anything. (7) I like to run both by distance and time but if I had to choose one, I’d choose distance.

Have you read this section of Runner’s World? What do you think of it- a silly waste of time or fun? Feel free to do your own version of this.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

My Pain Cave

I couldn’t sleep last night for some reason. After tossing and turning for a while, some random thoughts began running through my head. I began thinking about how many times I’ve been in the “pain cave.” The pain cave specifically refers to the physical and/or mental pain one pushes through at a particularly difficult race or when training for a race.

One of the most prominent memories of me spending time in the pain cave was during the only full marathon I ever ran, the Long Beach Marathon in California. It was unseasonably hot on that October day and runners were literally passing out from the heat all around me. I’m not sure how I didn’t pass out myself, although I did experience tunnel vision at one point during the race. I remember I kept telling myself to just look straight ahead and just keep moving because I knew if I stopped even for a second, I would never start up again and it would be a DNF for me. I was a young, inexperienced runner and yet somehow I found the courage to dig deep inside myself and keep on moving, despite the difficult race conditions.

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I was in the pain cave at this half marathon in Boulder, Colorado because of the altitude!

Another time where I was physically in the pain cave was when I was having problems with my iliotibial band on one leg and had developed iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS. When I was training for a half marathon in Columbus, Ohio, I was coming back from having a baby and all of my ligaments and joints were not in the condition they were pre-pregnancy. I had the typical pain on the side of my knee that goes along with ITBS, which I quickly determined was from my tight IT band. It was excruciating to run more than a few miles. Once the pain started, there was no running through it. I would have to stop running and walk back home. This is around the time when I discovered massage therapy and foam rolling. However, too much damage had been done to my IT band and I literally limped to the start of the Columbus Distance Classic. I was in the pain cave pretty much from the start of this race. This is a race I obviously should have never attempted and by the end I was barely walking and certainly not running. After the race, I limped around for several weeks and learned my lesson to never toe the line of a race when I’m injured again.

Similar to poor racing conditions at the Long Beach Marathon, I’ve had my share of other races with poor weather conditions on race day, and I spent my time in the pain cave at those races. There was the Gold Rush Half Marathon, which I described afterwards as pure torture. It was hilly (one of those races where you run uphill, turn a corner, and never get to run back down hill), hot, and humid. This was one of my first half marathons, too, so I learned at an early point in my running life to push through the pain cave. Then there was the Laughlin Half Marathon  in Nevada, with extremely hot and windy conditions on a course made of loose gravel so I had trouble getting my footing. That was a race I was just happy to finish. Also there was the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon in Tennessee with all of its insane hills and easily one of the hilliest half marathons I’ve run.

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The race course for the Laughlin Half Marathon was supposed to be “scenic” but I thought it was a death march

Outside of heat and hills, I’ve run races where it was cold and rainy, like the Run the Reagan Half Marathon near Atlanta, Georgia. Not only was the weather poor (cold and rainy), that race was entirely on a freeway closed off to traffic, so it was also one of the most boring courses I’ve ever run on. I had to dig deep mentally just to get through that race. Then there were all of the races I ran when I was anemic, some of which I hadn’t been diagnosed yet so I didn’t know why I was so much slower than I previously had been. When I was anemic, just walking up a flight of stairs would cause me to be out of breath, so how I managed to run multiple half marathons while I was anemic is truly beyond me. I guess it shows how I can push through when I’m in the pain cave.

But why can some people push through when they’re in the pain cave and others have more difficulty? Does it have to do with our previous experiences in life? Does it have to do with a person’s pain tolerance in general? I know for sure I have a high pain tolerance and have had one for as long as I can remember.

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This half marathon in Mississippi was when I was anemic and struggled just to finish

When I was seven years old, I broke my leg when riding my bicycle. I was by myself, riding around my neighborhood, when I made a turn too sharply and the bike and I fell to the ground. I still remember lying there on the street screaming out for help and crying loudly for what seemed like an eternity. One of my best friend’s moms even opened her back door, seemingly saw it was me, and shut her door back again. To this day I’ll never understand why she did that because it seemed obvious to me that I needed help. Maybe she was just making sure it wasn’t one of her kids or maybe she thought my mom would come and help me since I was in the cul-de-sac that our townhouse was on. Eventually I got up and hobbled home but I insisted to my mom that I was OK. For three days I limped around while I swore to my mom that my leg was not broken. Finally, despite my pleas to the contrary, my mom took me to the emergency room, where they promptly took x-rays then wrapped my leg in a heavy plaster cast from the tip of my thigh down to my toes. Yes, it was indeed broken but for some reason it didn’t hurt that much when I broke it so I thought it must not really be broken. Sure, I was crying when it happened but that was more to get someone to come and help me. The real pain came two months later when they finally took the cast off and I had to walk again.

I’ve been fortunate to have only broken one limb my entire life and have only had one sprain- my neck when I was in a car accident in high school and had whiplash. That was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had. Every little movement would send sharp, shooting pain through my neck, even if I just moved my foot or some other part of the body not even near my neck. I remember sitting at lunch at school with friends with my neck brace on one day after that happened and tears were streaming down my face from the pain. One of my friends told me I really needed to go and call my mom to have her pick me up and that I didn’t need to “be tough” and go through this at school. My mom picked me up and took me to the doctor who prescribed a muscle relaxer that only maybe numbed the pain a little. To this day I still have problems with my neck and most likely always will but that’s a pain I’ve just learned to live with.

Then we move on to childbirth and delivery. I decided when I was pregnant before I went into labor to skip the epidural and pain medicine. I had a good friend who had done that and I figured if she could do it, so could I. How did that go for me? Honestly, while it was intensely painful, it was nothing I didn’t feel like I couldn’t handle. I used my breathing techniques from yoga and ones I had learned in childbirth classes and I felt like my breath is what got me through the worst of it. When they stitched me up afterwards, that was painful and I agreed to let the nurse give me a Tylenol for the pain.

I don’t say all of this to sound like I’m bragging, because I certainly don’t feel like I’m a badass or anything. Like I said earlier, I just feel like I have a higher pain tolerance than some people do. Perhaps it’s because of my life experiences, or perhaps I was just born that way, who knows? I do believe my high pain tolerance makes it easier for me to deal when I’m in the pain cave, though. Maybe it’s true what they say about what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

How do you deal with it when you’re in the pain cave? When is a time when you were in the pain cave?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

What to Do If You Get Sick the Week of Your Race

I swear I wrote up this post before COVID-19 was even a thing. I had planned all along to put up this post around this date, but it seems perhaps even a little more apropos with all of the recent news. Anyway, what I’m about to get into has absolutely nothing to do with Coronavirus. If you have that, you absolutely shouldn’t be running in a race or even leaving your house for that matter. That’s all I have to say about that. Now onto my original post.

We’ve all been there. It’s four days before your big race and you come down with a cold. Now what? There are some things you can do to help you feel better. But first, should you even still run? I’m not a doctor but everything I’ve ever read and heard about this subject says if your cold is in your head such as your sinuses, it’s OK to still run but if it’s in your chest or you have a fever or have aches in your muscles like what comes with the flu, you shouldn’t run. My knowledge is based on my scientific background including the pre-pharmacy classes I took before I decided pharmacy school wasn’t for me and switched my major to biology plus all of the immunology, physiology, and microbiology classes I had and scientific journals I’ve read over the years on this subject as a scientist. In other words, although I’m not a medical doctor, I have at least a decent amount of knowledge on health and illnesses.

Of course there are the over-the-counter (OTC) medications that don’t really make you “better” but merely treat your symptoms and sometimes help you feel a little better. However, sometimes using these medications can actually backfire and make you feel worse after using them for a few days. Some people don’t realize this but you will actually get over your cold quicker if you can wait it out and not use harsh over-the-counter treatments. The worst are nasal sprays like Afrin that can cause tissue damage over time. Other OTC medications can exacerbate your cold and lead to a sinus infection.

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Before my half marathon in Alabama. You’d never know from this photo how bad I was feeling (with a cold) but I ran anyway!

All of that being said, treating your cold with some good old fashioned remedies won’t hurt and some may actually help you feel better. Chicken soup has been recommended for people with colds for so many years for good reason. Consuming more liquids helps your body clear the infection easier and chicken broth is easy on the stomach as well. You can also flush out your sinuses with a saline spray or neti pot if you have congestion in your sinuses. Just make sure you use bottled water that has been distilled or sterilized if you choose to make your own saline solution. I’m also a fan of Nuun Immunity tablets, which have turmeric, elderberry extract, Echinacea, ginger, vitamin C, and other ingredients that will give your immune system a boost and help hydrate you. Wetting a washcloth and warming it in the microwave then putting that over your sinuses also helps temporarily relieve sinus pressure.

Honestly, the most important thing you can do if you get sick to help your body get better quicker is rest. Rest is so hugely important and effects literally everything we do in life, yet I feel like it’s often the first to be neglected when people get busy with life. If that means you have to skip a 40 minute run that you were supposed to do at 5 in the morning, but you’ve got a cold and your race is next week, you would be better off to skip that run and get some extra sleep instead.

What if you’ve gotten extra rest and hydration but you’re still sick and it’s race day? Like I said earlier, as long as you don’t have a fever and your cold is in your sinuses and not your chest and you don’t have body aches, you can go ahead and run. Just stuff some tissues in a pocket and realize it’s not going to be a PR for you, but try to make the best of it! I’ve run races with a cold before and while they weren’t exactly some of my most fun races ever, I was able to get through them and finish with a smile on my face.

Finally, you can do what Olympic athlete Clarence DeMar said and “Run like hell and get the agony over with.”

Have you run a race while sick? How did that go? Was it a bad decision or fine in the end?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed by Matthew Futterman

I first heard about this book on the Marathon Training Academy Podcast. One of the hosts, Angie, is an avid reader and recommended this book, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ll fully admit that it took me a little while to warm up to this book, but once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.

This book is written primarily about some people that influenced the sport of running, primarily long-distance running. Some people are well-known, like runners Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor, coaches Bob Larsen and Joe Vigil, but some of the characters are lesser-known (at least to me) like Terry Cotton and Ed Mendoza. The real reason for Futterman writing the books seems to be a group of guys who called themselves the Jamul (pronounced “HA-mool”) Toads, whose coach was Bob Larsen.

Futterman goes all the way back to the 1950’s to develop the story behind Coach Bob Larsen as a young boy and runner. He tells of the injuries that Larsen and his teammates had in high school. Larsen begins questioning the workouts of runners when he’s a young boy and that continues into young adulthood. While he’s enrolled in San Diego’s kinesiology department, he meets Frederick William Kasch, a recent PhD recepient who is developing a fitness program for adults to test theories about exercise, muscles, and the heart. At the time, it was commonly believed that one might die from a heart attack if you exercised vigorously after the age of thirty-five.

This is also during the time when Arthur Lydiard was becoming an advocate for running as exercise. Lydiard believed in putting in the miles and his runners routinely ran 100 miles per week. Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike, also met with Lydiard during this time and returned home to Oregon to spread the word about “jogging.” When Larsen graduates in 1961 from San Diego, he decides to stay there and enrolls in graduate school in kinesiology and physical education and takes on the role of coaching distance runners on the SDSU track team. The book then takes us through a brief history of cross country teams of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

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Here is where Coach Bob begins his tinkering and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work with his athletes. One thing he firmly believes from the beginning is that runners should train with a group. The idea is if you run by yourself, it’s too easy to slack off but if you’re with a group, that forces you to dig a little deeper. He also firmly believes when you think you’ve reached your limit, push a little harder. You want to find that fine line where you push your mind and body just to the edge, without falling off (hence the title of the book).

The evolution of the tempo run, which is largely credited to Larsen is discussed, as are the stories of the many other runners that Bob Larsen coached, including Dale Fleet, Dave Harper, Kirk Pfeffer, Mike Breen, and Ed Mendoza and Terry Cotton as mentioned earlier. Around mid-way through the book, the Toads have grown to a group of about 30 guys. The book follows the runners through the 1970’s, including their ups and downs. Everything seems to be going great for Larsen. He expects the rest of the world to start following his way of running to the edge. But then it doesn’t happen. Runners start looking for a different way to train. Bob Larsen’s ways seem to fall to the way-side for the next several years.

Part 2 of the book fast-forwards to 1993, and catches us up. Larsen joined UCLA’s men’s track and field program in 1979, where his runners went on to win first place in the NCAA championship in 1987. His team is considered one of the best college teams in any sport in 1988. His focus is now on shorter distance runners, until he meets Meb Keflezighi, when everything changes again for Coach Bob. Larsen decides to offer Keflezighi a full scholarship to UCLA after watching him run and talking to his family afterwards, and this begins Meb’s relationship with Coach Bob that ended up lasting well into Meb’s 30’s.

The second part of the book also develops the story behind how Coach Bob set up a training ground at altitude for Meb and other runners like Deena Kastor who joined them over the years. Although Larsen knew the significance of training at altitude based on what he had seen with African runners who regularly run at altitude, this was fairly new territory for Americans at the time. Basically until they saw the payoff in the form of wins for Meb and Deena, they didn’t really know if all of their hard work was working. Part 2 of the book goes through the many wins but also losses for Meb and Deena over more recent years, such as at the Beijing and Athens Olympics, several New York City, Chicago, London, and Boston Marathons, among other races. The book ultimately ends with Meb’s win at the 2014 Boston Marathon, a fitting place to end the story.

I had heard some of these stories before like the ones about Deena Kastor’s training in Colorado and her running and ultimately winning bronze in the marathon in the Olympics in Athens but most of this was new to me, especially the stories about the Toads. I found this book interesting although perhaps a bit slow in parts. Typically I enjoy reading about the history behind running and runners who were involved in the evolution of long-distance running as we know it today. If you also enjoy reading about the history of running and runners, you might also enjoy this book.

Have you read this book or have it on your list of one you want to read? If you’ve read it, what did you think of it?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Running in My 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s

Although I feel like I’ve been a runner since I was a young child and I was on my school’s track team in elementary school, I just ran for fun mostly until after I had finished graduate school in my mid-20’s. I didn’t run on my high school’s track or cross country team nor did I run other than for fun during college. I ran my first 5k race when I was 28 years old. Looking back on it now, while I did know a little bit about running, I knew absolutely nothing about racing.

My first 5k race was under hot, humid conditions on the 4th of July but it sparked something in me and I wanted to race longer distances. You might think after the 5k I would gradually work up to longer distances like the 10k or a 10-miler or even a 15k, maybe eventually running a half marathon. But you would be wrong. I went straight from my very first 5k to signing up for a half marathon four months after that.

My first half marathon kicked my butt as I was woefully under-trained and under-prepared in many ways. I could barely lift my arms above my head after the race (my arms were too weak, which told me I needed to start doing some weight training) but one of the first things I said when I crossed that finish line was that I could do better than that and I wanted to sign up for the same race again the following year. It’s the only half marathon I’ve ever run more than once. True to my word, though, I finished the same half marathon the following year almost 16 minutes faster than I had the previous year. I was hooked on half marathons.

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One of the first races I ran in my 20’s. Sorry about the poor photo quality!

I eventually did run a 10k, 10-mile race, and 15k, but I mostly focused on half marathons. While still in my 20’s, I ran a total of three half marathons including one that’s still one of my favorites, the Kona Half Marathon in Hawaii. I don’t even remember why I signed up for this race to be honest. If I recall, I was planning a trip there for a vacation and happened to see there would be this half marathon going on while I was there and I thought, “Why not?” and signed up. It turned out to be a great decision and I have fond memories of that race. I still remember watching the sunrise on race day, running up some steep hills and running past houses who had their sprinklers going to help cool us runners off on that hot day in June.

Just one month after turning 30, I ran the Gold Rush Half Marathon in North Carolina, one of the hardest half marathons I’ve ever run to date. It was hot, hilly, and humid, which I’ve since then dubbed “The 3 deadly H’s.” This race taught me to do a little more research into race locales and race courses instead of just picking a race and signing up for it. Had I known how hilly the race was and given that it was held during the summer, I most likely wouldn’t have run it. This was before I had the goal to run a half marathon in all 50 states, and it was my third half marathon in North Carolina.

Truth be told, my 30’s were when I really “grew up” as a runner. I ran a whole slew of half marathons in my 30’s, especially once I decided I wanted to run a half marathon in all 50 states. My daughter was born when I was in my 30’s and this was the longest hiatus I ever took from running half marathons after she was born. I actually ran a half marathon, Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Arizona when I was just barely pregnant. My doctor said I should be fine since I had already run several half marathons and to just take the race easy. When my daughter was little, she used to love to hear the story about how she “ran” a half marathon in mommy’s tummy before she was even born.

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Finishing the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Arizona when I was pregnant

During my 30’s, I began to discover all things “proper” when it comes to running, such as proper running attire and shoes. When I was in college, I would just wear whatever athletic shoes I happened to have when I would go out for a run. A bad case of shin splints in college taught me that wasn’t a smart idea but I still didn’t really educate myself about running shoes until I was in my 30’s. I also began to invest in shirts and shorts made of technical fabrics and socks made specifically for running rather than those made of cotton. I wasn’t yet aware of Nuun hydration products but I began to buy Gatorade and drink that on long runs although not consistently. I began to experiment with different Gu’s, Gels, bloks, and Powerbars.

I also ran a marathon in my 30’s, the Long Beach Marathon in California. What should have been cooler, comfortable weather for a marathon turned out to be a nightmare. The temperature on that October morning quickly rose into the 80’s and the red flags were out on the course although the course was still officially open. All around me runners were literally passing out from the heat. I began to experience tunnel vision, where I had no peripheral vision, presumably from heat exhaustion. My husband was waiting for me at the finish, and I called him sometime during the race to let him know I wouldn’t be finishing until much later than I had originally anticipated. I alternated between walking and a slow jog but no matter what, I knew I had to keep moving forward for as long as I physically could. If I stopped for even a second, I knew that would be the end of the race for me. People around me kept asking me if I was OK, so I assume I must have looked really bad, but I just told them I was fine. As soon as I crossed the finish line and saw my husband, the first words I told him were that I never wanted to do that again. It was my one and only marathon.

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All smiles at the start of the Long Beach Marathon!

My 30’s were also when I first experienced anemia. Prior to this, I had never experienced anemia so I didn’t know what to look for. All I knew was I had slowed down considerably when I tried to run and I was becoming more and more out of breath even during simple everyday activities like walking up a flight of stairs. Finally, I went to my doctor, was diagnosed with anemia, and began taking supplements with high doses of iron along with folic acid and Vitamin C. In hindsight, I most likely was anemic for some time before I went to the doctor, and it took several months before I truly felt like myself again and even longer until my running times fell.

In my 40’s, I feel like I finally became an educated runner. I discovered Nuun hydration and Honey Stinger fueling products. After trying so many different hydration products, Nuun was such a revelation for me. I love how it’s low in sugar and has all natural ingredients. I have a picky stomach and have had trouble with so many different things I would try to eat on long runs but with Honey Stinger products, I’ve never had any issues and am so happy to have discovered their waffles, bars, and chews.

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My 40’s have also been a time to read books on running, which I’ve devoured. There are so many well-written, educational books on running out there. Some of my favorites so far have been Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle HamiltonRun the World by Becky WadeEndure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance Book by Alex HutchinsonRunner’s World Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It by Bart Yasso, and Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager just to name a few. All of the above links are to reviews I wrote on the books.

Anemia reared its ugly head once again in my 40’s but this time I was more aware of the signs and symptoms and caught it earlier than I did when I was in my 30’s. Despite going to multiple doctors, I never got a straight answer about the cause of my anemia. I had an endoscopy to rule out anything major and some other tests were done but nothing definitive was ever determined. I suspect mine is from foot strike hemolysis (you can read about that here) combined with the fact that I was not diligent about taking a daily supplement with iron. After round two with anemia, you’d better bet I take a multivitamin with iron every day now!

One unexpected thing that happened in my 40’s is I set a PR (personal record) at a half marathon. Most people think they’re well-beyond a PR in their 40’s and I was no different, especially given the fact that I’m not new to running. However, at the Star Valley Half Marathon in Thayne, Wyoming, all of the stars were aligned perfectly for me on that day and I ended up finishing the fastest ever at a half marathon. Needless to say, I absolutely loved this race and highly recommend it to anyone that wants to run a fast half marathon in a small town with the beautiful mountains of Wyoming around you.

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Standing under the world’s largest collection of elk horns after the Star Valley Half Marathon

You may be wondering about other things like cross-training and how that’s changed over the years. When I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s I would ride my bike quite a bit, but after my daughter was born, I found myself on the bike less and less. In my mid-40’s I began to ride my bike once again and remembered how much I enjoyed going for a bike ride. I didn’t do much strength training in my 20’s but I definitely made that a priority in my 30’s and have continued that into my 40’s. I discovered standup paddle boarding in my late 40’s and have been loving that as a form of cross training. Yoga has always been a high priority for me and I’ve been faithfully going to one yoga class or another since my late 20’s.

I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had that many running injuries considering how long I’ve been running. Sure, I had shin splints in my 20’s, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) in my 30’s, and minor things here and there but nothing major. I’ve been diligent about listening to my body over the years. When I’m running, I do a mental body scan to see if there are any aches or pains. If I have a sharp pain that doesn’t go away on its own, I’ll end the run and try to figure out the root cause. For me, often a knot in a muscle will cause pain and if I can work it out either by myself or with the help of a massage therapist, the pain will go away. Just about the only time I’ve had to take extended time off from running because of running injuries is when I didn’t stop running when I should have, early on when I began experiencing pain.

So now I’m looking forward to the next decade of running in my 50’s and beyond. I hope to be one of those people who’s still running as long as I live!

What about you? How has your running changed over the decades or are you a relatively new runner?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Some Things to Consider Before You Sign Up for a Winter Race in the South

I recently heard an ad for a marathon and half marathon in Miami in February. They said something about how great it would be to run in beautiful Miami in February to get a break from winter weather and I started thinking about that. I’ve run several half marathons in the winter months including Kiawah Island Half Marathon (South Carolina) in December, Naples Daily News Half Marathon (Florida) in January, Run the Reagan (Georgia) in February, Ole Man River (Louisiana) in December, Dogtown Half Marathon (Utah) in February, and several half marathons in early to mid-March, on the verge of spring but still technically winter.

While I’ll agree that it was definitely nice to have a break from cold weather when I was in Florida, I still had to go back home obviously so it was just a few days of warmer weather. None of the other states were noticeably warmer than my home state of North Carolina, even though Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana are all south of where I live so one might expect it to be warmer (I did). I remember it being chilly and rainy in Louisiana and Georgia and very windy and cool in South Carolina. When I finished all three of those races, I was ready to just go back to my hotel room to take a hot shower and warm up. That being said, Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon is a great race and I still recommend it.

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I was so happy to see the finish line at Run the Reagan in Georgia!

So does that just leave Florida if you want to run a marathon or half marathon in the winter and have a greater chance of warm, sunny weather? First off remember, Florida is a big state and the weather varies considerably from the northern part to the southern part. I was in Naples, in the southern part of the state and the weather was nice enough that we still went to the beach in January. If we would have been in say, Jacksonville, it’s not nearly as warm there as it is in Naples in January but still may be warmer than where you live. Besides southern Florida, you would also have warm weather in the winter in southern Texas, southern California, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Arizona. All of that being said, if you live in a state in the northeast or another state where it snows a lot and is bitter cold during the winter, it would seem considerably warmer if you ran a race in a state like North Carolina or Georgia. It’s all relative.

However, that’s not necessarily as great as it sounds, especially if you live in a far northern state. Let’s say you live in Michigan and it starts snowing in October, like it normally does there, and by November you’ve acclimated to the cold weather. If you were training for a marathon in Florida in January or February but lived in Michigan, that would mean you would have to run through some pretty rough weather, only to show up in sunny southern Florida, where it may be upwards of 75 degrees for the high on race day. You would not be anywhere near acclimated to that kind of temperature and it would probably feel like you were running in an inferno.

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It was fun getting to hang out at the beach with this little cutie after the race in Naples, Florida in January

There are also the holidays to consider. If you’re running a half marathon or marathon in February, that means you need to get your training runs in for the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I’ve done that and it’s not something that was easy to do. Everyone is already busy around the holidays, with the extra shopping, gift wrapping, parties, putting up decorations, extra cooking and/or baking, visiting family members, and all of the other extra things that happen that time of year. When you have to run for 12 miles on Saturday, you’re probably not going to feel like driving 4 hours to see Grandma after that, plus you’ll likely have to figure out where to run and how to squeeze in  another run while you’re at Grandma’s house for the weekend.

It’s not all bad, though. It is pretty nice to get a break from cold, dreary winter weather, even if it is just for a few days or a bit more if you’re lucky enough to spend some time there after the race. Sure, you do have to go back home to crappy weather, but you may appreciate the warm weather a bit more while you’re there and have maybe a bit more fun because of it. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to when you’re outside training in the cold, drab winter weather. If you live somewhere that you just love cold weather and snow, you probably wouldn’t enjoy a “break” from the cold weather and all of this would be lost upon you, so I don’t recommend a winter race for you in one of the states I mentioned in the winter.

I think as long as you come prepared and know what you’re getting into before you sign up for a winter race somewhere that it will be considerably warmer than where you live, it will be fine. In fact, it could turn out to be something you absolutely love and end up doing it year after year. My theory is always, “You’ll never know until you try!”

Have you run a race in a southern state in the winter? If so, what was your experience like? Do you want to run a winter race in a southern state?

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Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Running Resolutions for 2020

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know I’m not a huge New Year’s Resolutions kind of gal. Last year I had a single running resolution for 2019, which you can read the full post on here. If you don’t feel like reading that post, I’ll make it easy on you and let you know that my only running resolution for 2019 was to finish in the top three for my age group in a half marathon. I just ran three races, so I only had a one in three shot at doing that, but I did it.  I finished second in my age group at the Seashore Classic Half Marathon, Lewes, Delaware- 45th state.

For 2020, I also only have a single resolution or goal. I want to enjoy this year perhaps a bit more than last year (not that I didn’t enjoy last year, because all of the races I ran were fabulous). I want to savor every moment. Why, you may ask? And don’t I always at least try to savor every moment? Well, yes, I do but this year is different because it’s my last year (hopefully) that I will have the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. As long as all goes well, I will run a half marathon in my 50th state this year and I want to enjoy every moment of my final states, which btw are New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa.

I don’t have any goals of finishing with a PR or placing in my age group or pretty much any time-related goals at all. As long as I remain healthy and finish my final three half marathons this year, that’s all I really want. Of course I’m going to race these final three half marathons, so that’s not to say I plan on taking it easy and not pushing myself hard during training and at the actual races. But I’m giving myself full relief from any pressure from PRs or times.

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I just want to have as much fun as my dog, Chile when she runs!

From as long as I can remember, my ultimate goal for a half marathon has been to finish under 2 hours, which I’ve done a dozen times. This year, I honestly don’t care if I don’t finish under 2 hours. I always try my hardest at races, and I know this year won’t be any different. Of course I will go into the races with the intention of running my best for the conditions of the race that day. If that means I finish just over 2 hours or just under 2 hours, so be it either way. Or if things go terrible and I finish well over 2 hours, that’s fine too.

For many years, I struggled with undiagnosed anemia. My race times had gotten slower and slower over the years and I couldn’t figure out why. When I finally figured out I was anemic, it was such a relief. I had begun to think (and in fact someone had even told me) that perhaps this was just part of getting older and this was the inevitable slow-down we all face as we get older. I was so happy to be diagnosed with anemia because that meant I could fix the problem!

2011 was a low-point for me when it comes to running. I remember barely being able to run a mile without getting out of breath then. After finally getting diagnosed and treating my anemia, I began to gradually get my strength back. I started chipping away at my race times and eventually they came back down to finish times I was happier with.

Finally sometime around the end of 2017 I began to make some major changes to my life when it came to running. I changed my running shoes drastically; I went from only wearing Asics Nimbus running shoes to wearing running shoes in brands I’d never heard of. I changed my running routes from only running in a couple of different places to having a dozen different running routes and always on the lookout for new ones. I started running on trails every so often. More importantly, I changed my half marathon training plan from one where I ran three days a week to one where I ran five days a week.

All of these changes paid off when I ran my half marathons in 2018 and even more so for the half marathons in 2019. I ended up running my fastest half marathon to date in 2019, a fact that I still can’t fully comprehend. Never would I have thought I was capable of a PR at my age. So when I say I just want to enjoy the races in 2020, I mean it. I’ve already had some phenomenal races and if I never PR again, that would be OK with me. I know at some point I will reach the point where I start to slow down. That’s not to say I’m done with trying to run fast because I will continue to do so as long as I physically can do so. But this year, I just want to enjoy the ride!

I’m also happy to say I’ve been chosen as an ambassador again for Nuun, Honey Stinger, and Zensah. When I get discount codes that I can pass along, I usually do so on  Instagram and Twitter but also here when I can.

What about you- what are your running resolutions for 2020? What are you looking forward to when it comes to running in 2020?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- “Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery” by Christie Aschwanden

When you finish a hard run, do you immediately immerse your lower body into an ice bath, cringing but nonetheless telling yourself you’ll feel better afterwards? Or do you chug a protein shake after a long run to help you recover? Are you a big fan of sports compression clothing? Have you ever wondered if any of the multitude of recovery products and services really “work” meaning they truly help your body recover faster or more efficiently? If so, you might enjoy reading Christie Aschwanden’s book, “Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery.”

As the saying goes, Christie Aschwanden wears many hats. In addition to being an author and contributing writer for dozens of publications, frequent speaker at writer’s workshops and journalism conferences, she is an athlete who has competed on the Team Rossignol Nordic ski racing squad, in addition to being a runner and cyclist. I think her scientific background along with being an athlete herself gives her a distinct advantage in writing a book like this and doing it so thoroughly and completely.

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Recovery (from athletic activity) has become a huge buzz word in recent years, as Aschwanden points out in her book. There are entire centers devoted solely to athlete recovery now across the country. I did a quick search for my area and two places came up; one was an orthopedic “performance” center that offers things like myofascial cupping, dry needling, NormaTec recovery boots among others and the other was a place that called itself a recovery center but offered other services like posture work and pain relief in addition to cryotherapy wraps and NormaTec recovery boots.

But let me back up and start at the beginning of the book. Aschwanden begins by explaining how the book came to be and how and why she wanted to find out all she could about recovery and the science behind it. She makes it clear that many scientific studies on athletes are flawed. As you may already be aware, many athletic studies are based on small groups of men and as such may not be relevant to women or even other men in general. I like how exercise physiologist and author of many scientific publications and the book, “Roar:  How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” Stacy Sims puts it:  “Women are not small men. Stop eating and training like one.”

Next, Aschwanden tells the story behind Gatorade and discusses hydration and how the balance has shifted to one where athletes are so worried about being dehydrated that they are dying of hyponatremia, which is when you drink too much water and your electrolytes become unbalanced. In perfect succession, she tells the story of how PowerBar came to be and how so many other companies followed suit and the industry exploded with recovery drinks, bars, and other high-protein concoctions. The bottom line that Aschwanden arrives at for both hydration and nutrition is that we’re over-complicating matters. We should be drinking to thirst and have a meal with real food (!) that’s a mix of mostly carbohydrates and protein after a workout. Our bodies will adjust and rebound on their own unless you’re in a multi-day event like the Tour de France and you have a tough race the following day.

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Yes, I love my Zensah compression socks (and tights) and my foam roller!

The next chapters are on ice baths and cryotherapy, infrared saunas, massage therapy, foam rollers, and compression gear including compression boots. Ice baths seem to be a bit complicated in that they may not be a good idea after strength training or if you’re in a building phase of training, but if you’re only interested in short-term benefits, then go for it. There’s evidence that icing may inhibit an athlete’s body’s ability to adapt long-term on its own but other research shows by reducing pain and soreness, icing may allow an athlete to train again sooner, so there are somewhat mixed findings at this point. Once again, Aschwanden concludes that perhaps we’re over-thinking these recovery aids as well since all we really need to do is gentle exercise to naturally promote blood flow through tired muscles and speed up the flow of by-products of intense exercise.

Perhaps the most important chapter in the book is chapter 7 titled “The Rest Cure.” I’ll cut to the chase here and put it simply. The single most important thing you can do for yourself to help with recovery is get adequate and restful sleep. She gives many examples of professional athletes and how they’ve come to realize how important sleep is and have made it a priority in their lives. You can be doing a half a dozen different things to aid in recovery but if you’re not getting enough sleep, nothing else matters. Your body needs sleep to repair and re-build muscles and if you’re not getting enough time for that to happen, your performance will eventually suffer.

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Nuun Rest has magnesium and tart cherry to help you sleep

Aschwanden discusses the multi-billion dollar supplement industry, largely lead by protein powders. Not only are most of these supplements completely unnecessary for most average athletes, they can cost hundreds of dollars in a single month, and even worse many are laced with heavy metals like arsenic and lead. Sure, you can look them up on websites that verify some supplements (although not all of them on the market by a long shot), but there’s still no guarantee that you’re getting what you think you are or that it will do what you think it’s supposed to. We all want to believe drinking a protein shake after a workout will give us that boost to help us be stronger or recovery faster, but the truth is, it’s all such a marketing scam, it’s difficult to know what to trust as solid, scientifically-based information rather than hearsay from a coach, trainer, or other athlete often with little to no scientific background.

The book ends with a discussion on the placebo effect and what a powerful thing this can be. For example, in scientific studies on ice baths, it’s pretty much impossible to fake an ice bath, so obviously everyone in the study that gets an ice bath knows it and the people in the study that aren’t getting the ice bath also know it. However, if you feel in your heart that ice baths have always “worked” for you, whether that means it makes you feel like you’re not as sore the next day or you can work out harder or more intensely the next day following an ice bath, that will effect your judgement and lead you to be biased if you’re in a study on ice baths. She concludes at the end of the book that soothing your muscles and body in a way that makes you feel better emotionally “even if nothing is actually changing in a physiological sense” provides a ritual for taking care of yourself and being proactive in your health, and helps you focus on rest.

Her bottom line seems to be as long as a recovery tool isn’t causing actual harm or costing you large sums of money, who really cares if it’s not doing much for your body in a way that’s been scientifically proven. So if you love to get massages regularly, use compression tights after a tough run, and sit in an infrared sauna once a month, go for it. The mind is truly a powerful thing and often if we think something makes us feel better, then in the end, that’s probably all that matters. I love the quote by Camille Herron who set a world record when she ran her first 100-mile run, who says she recovers by feel and keeps it simple. She said, “I am really in tune with my body, and I pay attention to what I’m feeling.” If she craves a cheeseburger after a marathon or ultra, that’s what she eats. Keep it simple.

One thing covered in the book that I didn’t discuss here is float tanks, which I’ve tried myself. If you want to read my experience with that, here’s the link:  I Tried a Sensory Deprivation Tank and Here’s What it Was Like For Me. My thoughts on Stacy Sims’ book are here:  Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager.

What about you? What recovery tools do you feel are important for you? Are there any recovery aids that you haven’t tried but would like to?

Happy running!

Donna