Exploring While Running and Fighting Boredom

I’m not sure if it was the extremely hot, humid summer we had or the fact that I trained for two half marathons with no break in-between, or something else entirely, but this summer I was seriously getting bored with my running routes. When you run five days a week, the scenery can get a bit old after a while, especially if you’re running the same route around 30 hours a week. I even moved three years ago, so these aren’t roads and trails I’ve been on all that long all things considered.

First, I started re-examining my route for my long run, Changing My Long Running Route- Maybe. In the end, I ultimately found an entirely different route than either mentioned in that blog post, and I’ve been running that route for my long runs lately. It seems to be a good mix of some smallish hills and flat areas but more importantly, it’s an entirely new trail to me, so I’m still finding new things along the way.

IMG_20181006_094614

I have about a month until my next race, so I doubt I’ll get bored with this running trail in that span of time. There are many twists and turns along the route to keep things interesting, some water crossings with cool bridges to run over, and it doesn’t seem to be too crowded although I pass some other runners and walkers in the roughly two hours I’m out there. The last time I ran my long run, there were several trees down from Hurricane Michael (downgraded to Tropical Storm by the time it got to North Carolina), so I took some photos. Surprisingly, I was able to get past the trees, although you certainly would never know that from this photo.

IMG_20181013_093718
Post-tropical storm wreckage
IMG_20181006_090624
A dreary-looking day, but perfect day for a run! I love these water crossings!

I haven’t just been changing my weekend long running routes, though. I’m also searching for new places for my other runs during the week. There is a town that I drive through to go to work, and I’ve discovered entire neighborhoods that are enormous that I never even knew existed. One day I just decided to change into my running clothes on my way out from work and stop somewhere to run along my drive home. Since that first day, I’ve discovered all kinds of new places by doing this. Most of these runs have been around 40-45 minutes, which is just enough time to explore a neighborhood or two before it’s time to head back to my car.

This isn’t to say I don’t still run on some of the routes and trails closer to my home, but by mixing up my running routes, I don’t get tired of running in the same place all the time. Now that it’s cooler and the days are getting shorter, I need to explore more places to run closer to where I work. I’ve worked at the same place for the last 18 years, so it’s not like I haven’t explored that much already, but I feel confident I can still find new places where I haven’t run. There are running/walking trails all over the place in my work town, many of which I’m sure I’ve never run on.

What about you guys? Do you run on the same route most of the time or do you like to explore and find new places to run?

Happy running!

Donna

Advertisements

Product Review- Rockin’ Green Platinum Series Active Wear Laundry Detergent

Over the years I must have tried at least four different laundry detergents made specifically for active wear. Not only do I run 5 days a week, I also go to yoga class, do strength training at the gym, and ride my bike when I have the energy, so over the course of a week, I have a lot of sweaty, smelly athletic clothes. Technical fabrics tend to smell even after being washed because the residues coming from sweat aren’t truly washed out and build up over time. Many laundry detergents can’t truly get rid of the funk, so you’re left with supposedly clean active wear that stinks before you even put it on.

When I came across some information for Rockin’ Green laundry detergent, I was intrigued. This detergent is specifically made with enzymes to remove stains and odors from fat, protein and starch. Further, the scent of Tea Tree Oil rinses clean after washing so you’re not left with perfumes meant to mask odors. The icing on the cake is this detergent is environmentally friendly, with biodegradable surfactants, natural cleaning agents, and plant derived enzymes. I asked for a sample to be sent to me and within a couple of days received two single use containers in the mail, along with a water test strip (to test pH), and a coupon for future orders.

IMG_20181001_170649

Since I knew some of my athletic clothes have lingering smells straight out of the drawers, I thought I should go the heavy-hitting route and do a pre-soak before washing the clothes. I added the entire one-use container, as directed, and soaked my clothes in my tub (my front-loading washer doesn’t have a pre-soak setting) for one hour. The water was a gross-looking dirty brown color, even though it’s not like these clothes had visible dirt or mud on them. I assume this meant the detergent removed some or all of the funk that was left on my athletic clothes that my previous detergent did not remove.

IMG_20181002_182327

After soaking the clothes for an hour, I drained the water and pulled them out of the tub and put them in the washing machine and ran a cycle without adding any additional detergent (per the instructions). Then I put everything into the dryer (no fabric softener like usual for me) and smelled the results.

With previous laundry detergents I’ve tried that were made specifically for athletic clothes, there still seemed to be a slight lingering smell in many of my older clothes after washing and drying a load of laundry. With Rockin’ Green, I only noticed a slight lingering smell in one shirt- just one shirt out of a huge load. I’m going to try doing another soak before I wash the next load and see if that gets all of the funk out of that shirt but my feeling is it will.

Bottom line- this detergent really works! I did a little more research into the products offered by Rockin’ Green and it turns out the detergent for active wear has enzymes specifically to remove odors from sweat that the Classic Rock detergent doesn’t have. Other than the detergent for athletic wear, there are detergents for hard water, cloth diapers, a pre-treatment ammonia remover, and even dishwasher detergent.

You can buy Rockin’ Green products at their site, RockinGreen.com (free shipping on all orders and all orders ship the same day) or at Amazon.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Changing My Long Running Route- Maybe

Since my last half marathon in Alaska, Skinny Raven Half Marathon, Anchorage, Alaska-43rd state, I’ve been training for my next half marathon, which is in November. The race in Alaska was in August, which I trained for during the hot, humid summer and I went straight from that into my current training cycle with no break. Where I live, it starts to get cooler in mid-to-late September but there are still plenty of days where it’s pretty warm until October hits. Then, for the next month or so we have pretty much ideal (to me) running conditions where the nights are cool and the days are warm with a bit of a chill to them some days and the humidity has thankfully dropped.

All of this means after suffering through the heat and humidity to train for my race in Alaska, I’ll finally get a bit of a break weather-wise for my next race. Lately I’ve been thinking about the best routes to take for my long runs. While there are of course many places I can choose to run my long runs, there are a couple of obvious choices to me. The first choice is a place I used to run all of my long runs on before I moved a few years ago (I only moved to the next town over, so not far). The trail is part of a converted railroad bed that is now a perfectly straight, what looks like mostly flat trail with crushed gravel and/or paved asphalt. The second choice is a greenway that I’ve been running my long runs on for the last three years. It’s full of hills, hills, and more hills along the asphalt trail.

IMG_20180922_093745
Running along the converted railroad bed trail last weekend

Last weekend I was supposed to run 11 miles, with the last 5 or 6 miles at race pace. I thought maybe I should try running on the flat trail because it’s nearly impossible for me to hit race paces on the extremely hilly trail but I might have a chance on the flat trail. Here’s the elevation profile in grey with my pace in blue from my 11 mile run on the flat trail:

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 10.01.56 AM

The elevation changes from 237 feet to 374 feet, so there’s a difference of 137 feet over the 11 miles that I ran. My average pace per mile was fairly consistent, with a difference of about a minute and a half from beginning to end. However, I was certainly not hitting anywhere near what I would like to be race pace for the last 5 or 6 miles. I think my mind wasn’t really into the run, but more on that later.

Last month, I ran 11 miles on the hilly trail and here’s the elevation profile in grey with my pace in blue from that run:

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 11.17.58 AM

The first thing that strikes me about this run compared to the run on the flat trail is how much more consistent my pace is on the flat trail (unsurprisingly). My average pace per mile on the hilly trail (shown directly above) differs by two minutes from my fastest mile to my slowest. The elevation changes from 326 feet to 466 feet, so there’s a difference of 140 feet over the 11 miles that I ran. Hmmmm. It looks like my “flat” trail isn’t really so flat after all, just more consistent, without the sudden increases and decreases in elevation I see on the hilly trail.

Here’s where things get interesting. My fastest times on the “what I thought was flat but isn’t really that flat” trail, which I will now call the “not really flat” trail, are not as fast as my fastest times on the hilly trail, because of running faster downhill. Since there aren’t really any steep hills to run down on the “not really flat” trail, I don’t get that boost of speed that I get on the hilly trail. Sure, I’m going much slower when running (and yes sometimes walking if I’m going to be totally honest) up the steep hills on the hilly trail, but because of the speed I get when running down hill, the average is not as bad as I once thought it was, before I did this analysis comparing the two trails.

Bottom line, I ran the hilly trail an average of 21 seconds/mile slower than the “not really flat” trail but moving time was almost 20 minutes longer on the hilly trail, because of walking, I’m sure. Elevation gain for the hilly trail is 676 feet and 284 feet for the “not really flat” trail. All of this makes me question whether I should run on the “not really flat” trail for my long runs. Since the idea was to be able to hit my race paces, but that didn’t happen, I think I may want to continue running on the hilly trail.

As I mentioned earlier, my mind wasn’t really into it during my long run on the “not really flat” trail. What I mean by this is the run seemed very ordinary and mundane. There wasn’t a whole lot of change in scenery and there were many other walkers, bikers, and runners on the trail. The hilly trail, on the other hand, is mostly much more quiet with maybe a handful of other runners or walkers along the way. More importantly, the scenery is more varied, with twists and turns, glimpses of different neighborhoods, ponds, often rabbits and birds, and yes, many hills.

20170923_091355-EFFECTS
One small section of the hilly trail I like to run on

I used to hate hill running but several years ago I began to appreciate hills and what they can do for me as a runner. I think hills definitely make me stronger and I feel more of a sense of accomplishment when I can run all the way up a long, steep hill rather than just running along what seems like a flat trail. So in the end, I think I’ll stick with the hilly trail for my long runs after all. The scenery is better and I love the peace and quiet. Now if I can just tell my brain that I can run up the hills instead of giving up and walking the harder ones.

How about you guys- where do you run your long runs, or does it vary from week to week? Do you choose where to run based on trying to hit race pace? Do you think I should go back to the “not really flat” trail to work on trying to hit race pace or just keep running on the hilly trail and work on trying to run up more of the hills? I’d really love some input!

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance Book by Alex Hutchinson

I’ll cut to the chase here. I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s hands-down one of my favorite running-related books I’ve read in a while. This isn’t just a book for runners, though. It’s a book for any kind of person who is interested in gaining some insight into how the brain influences our bodies when pushed to extreme conditions. Be forewarned, though. If you’re looking for a training manual to help you increase your endurance, this is not the book for that.

There are a lot of scientific references in this book but don’t let that scare you away if you normally don’t like a lot of “science talk.” I’m a scientist and perhaps part of the draw for me was all of the science, but I don’t think it’s too over-the-top for most people. There are plenty of anecdotes and stories told throughout the book to keep things interesting. For example, the backdrop of the entire book is the 2-hour marathon attempt (Breaking2 documentary can be watched here) which the author comes back to every few chapters and helps keep the story going.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 2.46.02 PM

The book itself is divided into three parts. In the first part “Mind and Muscle,” Hutchinson goes through the history of endurance research and the various theories used to explain it:  the “human machine” approach, Tim Noakes’ central governor theory, the psychobiological model by Samuele Marcora, and others. In the second part, “Limits,” he gives specific stories of people who have either intentionally or accidentally pushed or exceeded their limits in various ways such as pain, muscle, oxygen, heat, thirst, and fuel. Hutchinson vividly describes the experiences of polar explorers, Death Zone climbers, lost desert wanderers, and deep-sea freedivers among others as he looks for indications of which theories of endurance best fit the facts. In the third section, “Limit Breakers,” he explores various new approaches to expanding the apparent boundaries of endurance, ranging from mindfulness and brain training to electric brain stimulation, including accounts of his own experiences with some of them.

The last chapter of the book is about belief. The author states, “One of the key lessons I’ve taken away from writing Endure is that races aren’t just plumbing contests, measuring whose heart can deliver the most oxygen to their muscles. The reality is far more complex, and I think the first major post-Breaking2 marathon will be a great chance to see the “curious elasticity” of human limits in action.” Back to this chapter in a moment.

This book is 320 pages so it’s not a quick read. I found myself not wanting to put it down and I ended up staying up a bit later than usual sometimes when I read it before bed. Some of the stories are so engaging and thrilling, I found myself so engrossed that I just wanted to hear how the story ended before putting the book away for the night.

My take-away from the book is that we are capable of so much more than we realize. Sometimes our brain is just trying to protect us (if we’re running outside and it’s 90 degrees) but sometimes we have to take control and tell our brain that we CAN do this, whatever the current challenge is, even if it’s hard, or maybe especially if it’s hard. Positive self-talk is no secret and we’ve all heard how important it is for reaching our best effort, but we need to go beyond that if we want to push ourselves further.

I especially like one of the last pages of the chapter “Belief,” where the author states the following:  “This book isn’t a training manual. Still, it’s impossible to explore the nature of human limits without wondering about the best ways to transcend them. In the end, the most effective limit-changers are still the simplest-so simple that we’ve barely mentioned them. If you want to run faster, it’s hard to improve on the training haiku penned by Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, the man whose 1991 journal paper foretold the two-hour-marathon chase:

Run a lot of miles

Some faster than your race pace

Rest once in a while”

Have any of you read this book? Are you interested in our brain’s involvement in pushing ourselves in any sport or activity? Do any of you have book recommendations for me?

Happy running!

Donna

Color Vibe 5k

It seems fitting that the Color Vibe 5k was in a mall parking lot since the only other 5k I ran (not counting the one I ran with my young daughter a few years ago at her pace) was in a mall parking lot. Hmmmm. Two 5ks in a mall parking lot? There go the points for a scenic race. Somehow I missed that when I signed up for this race. I also missed the fact that it was a fun run and therefore not timed. Therefore no age group placings and no age group awards.

My flakiness aside, let’s get to the race details. The Color Vibe 5k is in every state in the United States plus Washington, D.C. and several countries outside the US. According to their website, there have been over a million participants. I know many of you have probably run a color race of some sort before and they certainly aren’t novel. There are many different variations on color runs, where they throw colored powder at you as you run along the course.

20180908_075931_001-ANIMATION

I ran the Color Vibe 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 8, and packet pickup was on September 7 (although I believe you could pick up on race morning). It was quick, easy, and efficient. I went to the tables set up in the mall parking lot and picked up my bib along with my daughter’s, my race t-shirt (white cotton and yes I actually wore it during the race even though never in a million years would I ever wear cotton to run in unless I had absolutely nothing else to run in), two color packets, 4 temporary tattoos, and 2 pair of Color Vibe sunglasses.

On race morning, there was a local Zumba instructor leading some dance moves and getting the crowd motivated. The music was good and everyone was in good spirits. About 10 minutes before the race began, the announcer had everyone throw their colored powder that we picked up at packet pickup and it was a haze of colors everywhere. The kids in the crowd obviously loved it and the stage was set for everyone to have a great time.

20180908_081030_001-ANIMATION
Thankfully not all of the color along the course was blown by a leaf blower as shown here!

The race began at 8 am and it was already 80 degrees out, with the sun beating down. The course wound along the shopping mall parking lot and was about as uneventful as it sounds, as far as scenery. There also wasn’t a single place along the course where there was any shade. Volunteers threw colored powder at several places throughout the course, so there was no getting away from not being absolutely covered in color by the end. There was also a water station along the course.

Thankfully, the race was over and my watch showed me finishing in 23:33. Since the race was an untimed fun run, I won’t get credit for it on any of the places that keep your race times. I was surprised at how much my competitive spirit came out during the race. Because of the hot, humid conditions, I kept thinking, what incentive do I have to push harder? There aren’t any age group recognitions or awards. What real incentive do I have to go faster? Ultimately I did push harder than if I was just out on a training run, but probably not as much as if it would have been timed.

We received bottled water and a medal at the finish. There was also an after-race party where prizes were to be given out. I was so drained from the heat and also had another 3 miles to run to get my long run in for the day that I didn’t stick around for the post-race party.

20180908_083710

Would I do another color run again? Probably not, especially if it’s not timed. I’ve determined “fun runs” are not for me. I do enough “fun runs” on my own, which I prefer to call “training runs.” However, I should say I ran this with the idea that my daughter would also run it and I thought we’d be running together. She wasn’t feeling it that day and ended up running a bit behind me at her own pace. My daughter, who is even more competitive than I am said she had a great time and asked if we could do it again (I told her I would not be doing it again).

What about you guys? Have you run a color run? An untimed “fun run”? What do you think of fun runs?

Happy running!

Donna

My First 5k in 20 Years!

This weekend I’ll be running a 5k, and it will only be my third 5k ever. The last 5k I ran was with my daughter at her pace a few years ago, so I’m actually not counting that one. My first 5k was my first race as an adult and it was about 20 years ago, so the race this weekend is bound to be a PR! Well, maybe.

If you follow my blog, you know I run half marathons and am currently on a quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I just ran one in Alaska, the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, my 43rd state. Since I focus on running half marathons, I just haven’t put any effort into training for and running any 5k’s, probably a mistake on my part I know, but maybe that will change now.

This weekend I’m running a Color Vibe 5k, where they throw handfuls of paint powder at you as you run the course. Hmmmm, maybe not the best choice of a race if I’m looking for a PR, you may think. I had one friend who has run a race like this tell me flat out that there will be people running like mad all around the course with no rhyme or reason and frankly no one runs a race like this if they want to PR. Further, this race isn’t chip-timed, so there will be no age group awards since there will be no official timing.

However, I’ve always done things a bit differently than others. I’ve never run a Disney race, a Rock n’ Roll series race, an obstacle race, or many of the other hugely popular races. I ran a half marathon in Naples for my Florida race Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 8th state, opting for that over one of the many half marathons in Orlando. For my race in Georgia, I chose to run along a highway Run the Reagan Half Marathon, Georgia-14th state instead of choosing the more popular races in Savannah (a big mistake on my part in retrospect since the race I ran was pretty awful).

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 12.22.10 PM
From the Color Vibe website

So it seems I’m going in the other direction for my next 5k, opting for one of the hugely popular races. The Color Vibe is in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, plus several other countries. According to their website, over a million people have participated in Color Vibe races. The group that puts on these races is for profit, but they partner with local charities to give them a portion of the proceeds, so at least there is that.

When I signed up for the race, they were running a special where a child 12 and under could run for free with an adult, and since my daughter won’t turn 13 until 2 weeks after the race, I took advantage of the deal and signed us both up. My daughter is hugely competitive, though, and will not be happy at all when I tell her there are no age group awards (she’s won several AG awards so far and has gotten spoiled by that, I think). For my $34.99 plus processing fees I get two entries to the race, a race shirt, two tattoos, color pack, sunglasses, and medal. Not bad, but honestly I kind of wish there were going to be age group awards.

I guess I’ll have to see how this race goes and maybe sign up for a “real” 5k either this fall or next spring. By real I mean one that doesn’t promote itself as a fun run and a race where I can actually push myself to my full potential without anything crazy going on around me (like packets of color being thrown in my face). I do see the value of running a 5k and would like to eventually see how I can do.

Have any of you run a color race like this one? How was it? Any last-minute 5k advice for me?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Training for a Half Marathon in the Heat of Summer

When I decided to run the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in August in Alaska, I knew full well that meant I would be running through the hot, humid summer here in North Carolina. It’s usually well into the 70’s by 7 am in July and August and humidity levels in the early morning hours hover around 90-95%. Daytime highs are commonly in the upper 80’s to mid-90’s. When the sun sets, it doesn’t cool off much either although if you’re lucky it will drop to around 80 degrees then.

Given the fact that I work full-time and get up for work around 6:50, I would have had to have gotten up around 5:45 for most of my mid-week runs. Instead I chose to run after work, which for me was usually before 6 pm, and which also coincided many days with the highest temperature for the day. So wait, you say, you actually chose to run in the heat of the day rather than get up an hour early before work when it would have been 15 or 20 degrees cooler? Are you crazy?

I would manage to get my long runs in on Saturday morning, usually leaving the house around 7 or 7:30, so it was in the 70’s when I was starting out, but at least it was cooler than running any later than that. I feel like I’m sort of a morning person. I can easily get up around 6:30 or 7:00, which I know would seem really early for some people, but any earlier than that is just not for me. The other day I had to get up at 5:20 to take my daughter for a medical procedure and I was so exhausted all day even though I had gone to bed early the night before to make up for getting up early.

All during my training plan for the Alaska race, I kept wondering how running in the heat was effecting my training. Obviously my body couldn’t run as fast when it was 90 degrees as when it was 70 degrees. I think later in the summer my body definitely had acclimated as much as possible to the heat because my runs weren’t as slow as they had previously been. Still, I wasn’t as fast as I would have been if it wasn’t so hot and humid, so how was that effecting my training? How was not meeting my goal pace times effecting my body? Would I have been better off sucking it up and getting up early to run when it was cooler so I could have at least been closer to meeting my goal pace times?

IMG_20180807_173255
I did a lot of trail running this summer to try to escape the heat!

I had heard stories about people training for marathons during the summer for a fall race and smashing their times. I guess the idea is if you can push your body to run through the extreme heat conditions when you’re training, the race will seem easier when it’s cooler. I had hoped this would be the case with me when I ran that race in Anchorage.

My verdict? I don’t think running through the heat especially helped me or hurt me when it came to running the half marathon in Anchorage. For a comparison, at the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Idaho last May (so it was much cooler when I was training for it), I finished just under 2 hours, at 1:59:51. My GPS watch also had me running 13.32 miles. My time was good enough for 7th out of 59 in my age group, overall 253rd out of 897, and 105th female out of 535. At the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Alaska in August, my GPS said I ran 12.99 miles in 2:01:06, 84th for women and 11/52 for my age group. The biggest difference, though is elevation gain for Alaska was 495 feet but only 89 feet for Idaho.

I suppose if you take elevation into account for the races in Idaho and Alaska, you could say I did “better” at the race in Alaska. Pretty much the other things, like age group ranking and female ranking are similar enough to call them a wash. A finish of just over one minute longer for the hillier Alaska race seems pretty good to me now that I’m looking at it this way.

After all of this, would I do things differently? No, I have to say I would do it all over the same way. In fact, I will be next summer when I’m training for a race in Minnesota in August. I’m sure I’ll be cursing my decision next June and July, but I’ll have to just re-read this post and tell myself that everything will be ok in the end.

Did any of you train for a half marathon or marathon during the heat of the summer? Did you get up early to beat the heat or run later in the day like me? Were you cursing your decision to run a summer long distance race?

Happy running!

Donna