Shaking Things Up a Bit

Last winter when I was training for a half marathon in Utah in February and I had to run my peak miles during some of the worst weather where I live in North Carolina, I was cursing my choice of a race in February and vowed to not make that mistake again. If you want to read about my race in Utah, the Dogtown Half Marathon, you can find it here. For those of you that aren’t aware, I’m running a half marathon in all 50 United States and ran my 41st state in West Virginia last November, the Marshall University Half Marathon.

I should state that my husband and daughter always go to races with me and since my daughter is in middle school now, I plan my races around her school schedule. She’s currently in a year-round school, which means she’s basically in school for nine weeks and out for three weeks throughout the year. One of her current breaks is during February, hence my decision to run a half marathon in February last year. I’ve ran all of the southern states except New Mexico, if you consider that a southern state, and I refuse to run in a state like Minnesota or Nebraska in February.  Call me crazy or call me a wimp, but I’m done running races in February and all other winter months for that matter.

IMG_20170107_112516141
Photo taken last January. For a southern gal like me, this isn’t good running weather!

This all means I’ll go from running a race last November to my next one which isn’t until May. That’s a pretty long time to go in-between races, but that’s the way it’s going to be as long as my daughter has this school schedule. When she’s in high school, she will no longer be in year-round school, so I’ll have the option of running during the early spring again, as long as I can find a race during her spring break, which should be possible.

Sooooo, what have I been doing during this long break between training plans? Well, I’ve still been running to keep up my fitness level, but it’s been more “run for fun” kind of thing. I haven’t been doing any speed work of any real kind although I’ve done a little bit of playing around with increasing my speed on some treadmill runs and doing some sprinting here and there. I’ve also bought some new shoes in preparation when I do start my next training plan next month.

As I mentioned in a post last year, I tried some new shoes in a completely different brand and style than I had ever ran in before and that worked out well for me. They were Newtons and while I definitely like them, my next pair of new shoes aren’t Newtons. See, for years I had been running in Asics Gel Nimbus shoes and really liked them so I kept buying them for many years. However, after reading Jonathan Beverly’s book, “Runner’s World Your Best Stride: How to Optimize Your Natural Running Form to Run Easier, Farther, and Faster–With Fewer Injuries,” I began to re-think some things. My full post on Beverly’s book can be found here.

For 2018, I plan on incorporating more of the concepts from Beverly’s book such as not always wearing the same shoes, not always running on the same routes, not always doing the same stretches, etc.. In other words, shake things up a bit. I know many runners have the mentality, ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ but for me, I think I need to mix things up. My 20-something and even 30-something body didn’t need much variety and got by just fine without switching things up, but I feel like my 40-something body needs variety if I intend on running forever (which I do).

My last few years-worth of training plans have been the same, namely running three days a week, cross-training twice a week including cycling and yoga, strength training one day and core work one day. On the days where I ran, there were no easy runs but every run was either a tempo run, hill repeats, speed work, or long run. This next training plan I will start in a few weeks includes running five days a week, so I’ll have to double-up and go to yoga class for example after running earlier in the day to fit it all in. My plan is to at least try it and if it’s too much for my body (i.e. if I’m getting injuries) I’ll cut back to four days a week and try that.

Wish me luck! How often do you guys shake things up with your running?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Advertisements

Happy #RunChatHunt

I don’t know about the rest of you but lately I haven’t been running that much. #runfessions. It’s been hard to squeeze in a run in between all of the shopping, cookie-making, present-wrapping, etc. on top of my full-time job. Since I don’t have a race I’m training for, it’s been too easy to just let my runs slide.

Thanks to Mai at A Girl on a Search for Adventure (ifijustbreathe.wordpress.com) for the post about #RunChatHunt and giving me some motivation to run lately. This is a scavenger hunt for runners that began November 23 and goes through 11:59 p.m. ET Monday, Jan. 1. There are 12 items you’re supposed to look for on your run; you snap a photo and post it to twitter with hashtag RunChatHunt. Anyone who participates and finds at least one item is entered to win a pair of Altra Duo running shoes. There will be one male and one female winner chosen randomly for the shoes and all other winners are chosen randomly and will be announced by January 7, 2018.

There are specific prizes associated with each item on the scavenger hunt. For example, if you find a body of water, you can win a CamelBak Dart.

20171216_162230

For holiday inflatables, you can win PRO Compression socks and SaltStick Fastchews.

20171211_171200

You don’t have to find all the items to be eligible for prizes. If you find just one item, you’re entered for that prize and at the chance to win a pair of shoes from Altra.

All of the rules and information about the other prizes can be found here.

How many of you are participating in #RunChatHunt? If so, have you found all of the items on the list?

How many of you are finding it hard to be motivated to run or exercise lately?

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy #RunChatHunt!

Donna

 

 

 

Running Highs and Lows of 2017

I didn’t run a lot of races in 2017, so there won’t be a ton here about races. I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states, for those of you that don’t already know. At this point, I’m running three half marathons a year mainly due to travel expenses and time off work but also because I’ve ran all of the southern states so my options are limited. I of course did run throughout the year, though, only taking time off after races and a bit more during the super hot and humid parts of August.

My first race of 2017 was the Dogtown Half Marathon in Washington, Utah in February. This race was the 39th state in my quest for a half marathon in all 50 states. It was below freezing at the start of the race and the cold air effected my breathing. The course was also much hillier than the elevation map led me to believe. However, my daughter, who ran the 5k, won second place in her age group. This was definitely a running high for me even though I didn’t personally win an AG award, because I was so proud of her. I somehow managed to finish sixth in my AG, and considering how difficult the course was, I was happy with that.

IMG_20170225_101501176

My second race of the year was the Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, New Jersey in May, my 40th state. This race was definitely a low point in my racing years. Despite doing my long training runs on a hilly route, the hills on this race course were just too much for me. My finish time was considerably slower than for previous races, and even my age group time was pretty disappointing for me.

20170521_111740

After the Superhero Half, I decided it was time to re-think my entire running plans. I started focusing on my core more, I started working on my glutes to help with Dead Butt Syndrome I felt like I was developing. I bought new shoes that were completely different than any other kind of running shoe I had ever worn. Finally, the hardest and most-intensive thing I did was trying to change my running gait. Initially, this was a running low for me, because just running a few steps was so much harder and my pace was so much slower. I kept working on it, though, and bit by bit it started to come together and get easier. My “new” running gait was more like my “old” running gait, which is how my body is supposed to run. Over the years I had developed a serious imbalance between my left and right legs, resulting in hyperextending my right leg when I landed, and this was definitely not “normal” for me.

When I started training for my third and final half marathon for the year, I put some focused effort into doing tons of hip stretches and hip openers. I continued working on my core and glutes, and I continued working on my gait until it began to feel like it should. I also read  “Runner’s World Your Best Stride” and did some of the exercises and other things mentioned in the book to help with my running gait. Finally after months of working on my right leg, my “new” running gait felt “normal.” It felt more like it used to years ago before this imbalance became so bad that it caused a series of events that led to my abnormal running stride.

For my half marathon in West Virginia, my 41st state, I chose to run the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington. This race could have gone badly depending on the weather. Usually in this part of the state, nighttime lows are in the 30’s and rain or even snow is not uncommon. In the days leading up to the race and even the morning of the race, there was a 40% chance of rain at 7 am, which was when the race start was, and a 60% chance of rain at 8 am. Rain and 30’s or even 40’s is not my idea of ideal racing conditions, but by some miracle, it was much warmer than usual for this time of year and the rain held off for the entire morning. I ended up running in overcast skies with temperatures in the low 60’s for most of the race. I know that’s a bit warm for most people, but it was just fine with me.

20171105_090833

The race was very well-organized, the course was flat with only one small hill, and it was pretty scenic for the most part, thanks to the natural beauty of the area. All of the leaves on the trees were at their peak for autumn, so everywhere you looked, you saw bright red, orange, and yellow leaves. There are also rivers around the area and some nice parks that we got to run by so it was a scenic course without hills, which is almost unheard of. The race director of the half I ran in San Juan Island  in Washington even put on their Facebook page “scenic= hills.” The Marshall University Half Marathon proves that’s not always true!

This race in West Virginia reminded me once again why I run half marathons. After my previous two races, I needed a good race to renew my faith in myself. Even though I felt nauseous for the first hour of the race, I had fun and truly enjoyed this race. The finish was truly invigorating and I had runner’s high like I hadn’t felt in some time. I also learned that it is possible to teach an old runner new tricks. Even in my 40’s I was able to change my running gait and successfully run a half marathon that way. I was glad I ended my running year on a high note! Also, my super-speedy 12-year-old daughter finished second in the 19 and under age group for the 5k. And she says she’s not fast!

How was your running year? Any highs or lows you’d care to share?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

What my 40-Something Self Would Tell my 20-Something Runner Self

If only I could go back in time. How many times have any of you thought that? Well, if I could go back in time and specifically tell myself about running, there are quite a few things I could say.

I’ve always said I feel like I’ve always been a runner. As far back as I can remember, I remember running through my neighborhood and later running in college. Although I was on my school track and field team for a year, I usually just ran for fun on my own. As an adult, I didn’t even sign up for a race until after graduate school, but after that I was hooked on racing and began running longer and longer distances.

The sport of running has changed drastically since I first started running regularly in my 20’s. For the most part, things have improved over the years. Take running clothes for example. It was pretty common for people twenty years ago to run in cotton t-shirts, shorts, cotton socks, and whatever pair of athletic shoes you happened to already have. At least I wasn’t running in cotton, but I didn’t have a pair of athletic shoes specifically for running. I would just run in whatever pair of athletic shoes I currently was wearing. So I guess that’s where I would start, with what to wear.

1). There are a ton (with more coming all the time) of athletic apparel companies out there. Explore! Try them all out and find what really works for you and your body.

2). As far as running shoes go, definitely explore different brands and don’t just stick with the same brand for ten years. Mix it up and try different brands every year or so.

3). There’s way more out there than water and Gatorade for long runs. Look around online and pay attention to what other runners are fueling with. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If gels, gummies, and other similarly sticky substances aimed toward runners don’t suit you, no worries. Try, try, and try some more. Even when you’ve found something that doesn’t upset your stomach and gives you energy to make it through long runs, there’s nothing wrong with trying out something new. You never know; you might like it even better than what you’re currently using.

4). Don’t train for your first marathon by yourself. It’s one thing to run a 10 mile training run for a half marathon by yourself, but it’s an entirely different matter to run a 20 mile training run for a marathon by yourself. You’ll also want the advice and support from seasoned marathoners.

Long Beach Marathon
I didn’t heed my own advice and trained for the Long Beach Marathon by myself. It didn’t go well, but mostly because of the extreme heat.

5). Join a running club. If you don’t fit in with one, try another and keep trying until you find one that’s like a second family. The support you’ll get from a running club will be invaluable.

6). You can get by with minimal stretching when you’re in you’re 20’s but later in life it will catch up with you. Join a gym where they offer yoga and go every single week. Buy a foam roller and use it after every single run. If you get into the habit of doing something early on, it will be easier to stick with.

7). Strength training is another thing that you can skip when you’re younger but it becomes more important as you get older. Focus on running-specific moves such as lunges, squats, and core-strengthening movements.

bridge-pose
Bridge is a great exercise for runners

8). Start a running blog and follow others. Similar to a good running club, the support you’ll get from your regular readers will be huge. Also, you’ll learn a ton from your  readers and the blogs you follow over the years.

9). Probably the biggest resounding theme for my advice to myself is to try new things when you’re training but not on race day. Be open to trying just about anything from what you wear, what you ingest before or during runs, and even who you run with. Just not on race day.

10). Finally, enjoy the ride! Don’t take yourself too seriously! You’ll still be a solid runner even if you don’t meet some goal time you’ve set for yourself. No one will judge you if you don’t finish a race in a certain time. You’re your own worst enemy when it comes to things like that.

What about you guys? What advice would you give to your younger running self?

Happy running!

Donna

What’s in my Racing (Running) Bag?

Similar to “What’s in my Family’s Luggage” post, I thought I’d write one up on what I pack for a race. Since I’m currently on my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, and am up to 41 states, I have been packing a bag for a race for many years now. The contents of my pre-race bag have certainly changed as I’ve learned what works and doesn’t work for me.

To begin with, let me just re-iterate how much I love my packing cubes from ebags. I have the 3 piece set and love them so much I bought more for my daughter. If you are new to my blog, you may not be aware that my family and I never check a bag with an airline. Also, since I’m down to the last 9 states, there will be no more driving to a half marathon for me. I’ve already driven to all of ones that are within driving distance from my house and I’m not into cross-country driving before a half marathon.

I’ve always been able to condense all of my running gear except for my shoes, which I always wear on the airplane to the race, into a medium-sized packing cube. Almost always I’ll be running once or twice before the race as well, so I’ll also pack another running shirt, sports bra, socks, and shorts or other weather-appropriate bottoms in the cube.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What exactly is in my running packing cube specifically for a half marathon?

20171031_204532

1. I always pack at least one sports bra and pair of socks, regardless of the weather and time of year. I learned the hard way at my half marathon in Missoula, Montana to pack a long-sleeve shirt and capris or pants even if it’s July and you think there’s no way you’ll need to wear anything but shorts and short-sleeves if you’re headed somewhere north of where you live. I consider these things my basics. I’ve been buying Ruhn sports bras lately and really like them so I’m packing one of those for my next race. For socks, I’m packing Balega blister resist socks that are made with mohair. My shirt is a short-sleeve from Arctic Cool that I reviewed and you can read that here if you’d like. My shorts are from Under Armour. The shorts and shirt obviously would be different if I was headed to a cooler race.

2. I always pack my running watch and charger. I’ve had multiple Garmins and more recently a TomTom over the years, but this is one piece of gear that’s always gone with me to my races.

3. I always pack sunglasses and a running hat. I’ll decide on the morning of the race if I actually wear the sunglasses and hat, depending on how sunny/hot/cold it is going to be.

20171101_175732
All my running gear neatly packed in a medium-sized packing cube

4. In more recent years I’ve started running races with my Nathan running belt. It’s got holders for two bottles, which I like better than ones that have a spot for one big bottle. I run all my races fueled by Nuun carried by me and have found that just works better for me. No surprises on what you’re going to get at aid stations, and if it’s going to settle well with you, and even better, no slowing down at aid stations to grab a cup and try to not slosh it all over yourself while still swallowing a few drops. Speaking of fuel, I also like Honey Stinger waffles. I have a finicky stomach on race day but I usually don’t have a hard time getting these down.

5. Also in more recent years, I’ve been running races with my phone and armband. After one race where the finish was an absolute mad house and I had trouble finding my husband and daughter because there were so many people (even though we agreed to meet in a specific spot ahead of time), I started just running with my phone for all races.

6. I always wear my running shoes to races where I have to fly to, so those don’t go in my packing cubes. My latest pair for long runs is the Newton Fate II, which you can buy directly from Newton here and I see currently they’re on sale. It looks like the Fate III’s are out now. Not sure if I’ll stick with Newton or switch brands. I’m debating switching brands just to mix things up.

7. I also have two things for after a race. The first one is compression socks. These are fantastic for long flights, whether or not you’re running a race. When you’re on a long flight, the blood in your legs tends to pool unless you get up and walk around the plane a lot, so compression socks help with circulation in your legs. I personally like ones from CEP and you can buy them from Amazon here. The rule of thumb when it comes to compression products is if they’re easy to put on and pull off, they’re not tight enough. These things should be difficult to put on and feel like a bit of a struggle, but in the end it’s worth it.

The second thing I have for after a race is new to me, but one I’m very excited about. I’ve just discovered Oofos sandals (thank you, Paula!) and couldn’t be more excited about a pair of sandals. If you haven’t discovered Oofos yet, they’re supposed to be great for recovery after running or just being on your feet all day. You can tell they’re supremely different than most other flip-flop type sandals the second you put them on. The support they give to your feet is incredible. I can see why they’re so popular with runners.

20171031_075214
I’m normally not a big fan of photos of people’s feet but I felt like my new Oofos deserved a photo!

So that’s everything. I feel like I’ve packed a bag for a half marathon so many times by now I barely even have to think about what I need to bring. It does make it a bit less stressful when packing at least.

Also, I have an affiliate link through ebags for $30 off your next order if you sign up for emails here.  I don’t often pass along links for ebags on my blog, but if you follow me on twitter @runningtotravel, I’ll sometimes post links there for discounts when they come along. I love their stuff, but I don’t want to seem like I’m too pushy (I wouldn’t be a very good salesperson).

What running gear or clothes do you all really like for half marathons or marathons? Any recommendations?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Last Long Run Before my Next Half Marathon, Running Au Naturel

Lest you were thinking something else by the title, I won’t disappoint you. I don’t mean sans clothing by au naturel. Let me explain.

When I headed out the door to go on my last scheduled long run from my training plan, before I even started running I found out there was something wrong with either my earbuds or my podcast app (or my phone). It sounded like there was a short in my headphones, so after a few minutes of trying various things, I just stashed the earbuds in my running belt and started my run.

Even though I always run my long runs listening to podcasts (but no other runs during the week), I thought it would be fine to not listen to anything except for the sounds of nature around me. Then maybe a mile and a half into my run, my running watch died. Yes, I usually check my battery and storage on my watch the night before I run, but for whatever reason I must not have this time.

20171028_102258
I swear this road seemed a lot hillier when I was running up it than it looks here!

OK, I thought. I’ll just go the route I normally run for long runs. I know pretty much where each mile point is. But then I thought, no, I’ll do something a little differently. I’ll just go by time. I still had my phone with me in my armband, so I figured I’d just pull it out every so often and check how long I had been running.

Since the following weekend I would be running in a half marathon in a place I’ve never even done anything other than drive by in a car, I thought it might be good for me to run a route I don’t normally run for this last long run before the race. So, I was without my GPS running watch and without anything to listen to on my phone, hence “au naturel.” I was running the way people used to run, before watches with GPS and before people ran listening to podcasts or music.

I learned a couple of things along the way, too. 1). I learned that time seemed to go by slower than I estimated. I would think to myself, surely ten minutes has passed by now and check the time on my phone, only to find out it had only been 6 or maybe 7 minutes. It made me wonder if maybe I should run listening to music or podcasts during races. Normally I don’t listen to anything during races, but maybe it would make the time go by faster. 2). It’s a pain in the butt to keep pulling out your phone and putting it back into an armband. I don’t know how people stand to do that when they’re running. Maybe you get used to it over time, or maybe they have different armbands than I do.

So now with only a couple of days before my next half marathon, I’m left wondering how I’ll do since I wasn’t able to see my pace for my last run. I did have a fairly decent 12 mile run the weekend before this one. Based on that, I should finish somewhere around 2:05 or so, but who knows. The biggest factor for me is going to be how hilly the course is and how cold it is. Lately I’ve been dealing with some sort of sinus problems I can’t get under control and I’ve been coughing a lot as a result. Cold weather always aggravates any sinus issues I have. I’m pretty sure it’s just allergies so in theory I should feel at least partially better at the race since it’ll be in another state. I guess I’ll find out. Wish me luck for state number 41 in West Virginia!

IMG_20171029_052542638
If you don’t follow me on Insta @runningtotraveltheworld, you probably don’t know I got a puppy! She and my other dog are BFFs!

Also, if you follow this link, you can get $4 off any Nuun 4-pack on Amazon through 11/13/17:  Amazon link for Nuun

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

How I Attempt to Balance Work, Family, and Running

I currently work full-time, have a husband, a twelve-year-old daughter and the best dog ever, and I’m in the process of running a half marathon in all 50 states (I am training for state number 41). Oh, and I’m also the leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. It’s definitely not been easy juggling all of these things through the years, and I’ve learned a ton from others and from my own experiences.

By no means am I saying here my life is perfect. Note in the title I said “attempt.” I don’t have the perfect job, family, and win races all the time. I do the best I can, though, and I’m good with that. Sometimes my family and I even have hot dogs for dinner and I’m perfectly fine with that. ; )

Probably the biggest single factor in enabling me to manage to do all of these things somewhat successfully (I think) is my husband. He supports me in all aspects of my life from my career to running and training for my races to spending time with our daughter. If he was the type of husband to complain about me going out for two hours for a run or going to yoga class or spending time doing the myriad other active things I do, it just wouldn’t work. Quite simply, something would have to give and that would either mean my marriage or my active lifestyle. I don’t even want to imagine a non-active lifestyle, so I’m grateful for his support.

103_0369
My husband, my hero

My daughter has always been my biggest cheerleader when it comes to running. She was never the type of child that whined or complained when I told her I was going out for a run. I think she grew up seeing me be active and to her, that’s just what her mother does. She’s always told me, “Have a good run!” when I head out the door, or given me big hugs before a half marathon, even when it meant getting up before the sun even rose to get me to the start line in plenty of time. She’s never once made me feel guilty for running or doing any of the other activities I do, and honestly she’s such an active child I don’t think that would even cross her mind to behave that way.

IMG_20170225_102555872
My daughter, 2nd place AG finisher at a recent 5k

Finally, in my list of supporters is my boss and work place. Although he’s “getting up there in years” at this point, he was an avid runner in his younger years, and he ran the Boston Marathon multiple times. He continued running seven days a week for many years and only when he was in his early 70’s did he cut back his running. As a runner himself, he fully understands the need to go for runs during downtime at work sometimes, in order to get the miles in. I’m also lucky that I work with several other runners so they don’t look at me funny when I come back from a run all sweaty before I cool off and shower. I’m also lucky that my work place has not one but two places to shower and a small fitness center with treadmills, stationary bikes, weights, and instructor-led classes.

So what do you do if you don’t currently have support from family and/or your boss at work? Ask for help for starters. There’s absolutely no reason you have to do it all by yourself- clean the house, cook dinner, run errands, take care of the kids, and work a job outside the home. Even if you didn’t run, it would be exhausting to do all of that on your own. If you’re married, ask your spouse to help with responsibilities around the house and beyond that, ask for specific things you’d like help with. Give your kids lists of things they should be doing to help out such as picking up their toys when they’re done playing or washing their own clothes when they’re old enough. Ask your boss if you can work a flexible schedule- maybe come in for a few hours on the weekend in exchange for leaving early or coming in late to get some runs in.

Aside from the people in my life that help support me, I’ve also found ways to squeeze in a run over the years. When my daughter was younger and played soccer for the town team, I’d run when her team was practicing and before games started. After a few years, she decided soccer wasn’t for her and joined a year-round swim team, and I’ve often run the neighborhoods around her swim facility when she’s been at practice more times than I remember.

IMG_6992
Running before soccer practice or games was a great way to sneak in a run!

When my daughter was really little, I ran with a jogging stroller. She loved going out in the stroller and never once didn’t want to go or asked to go back home. The only downside to that is it was hard pushing all that weight between the stroller and her. I think I did that from when she was old enough to sit in the stroller until she was about 2 years old. That’s when she decided she was done with any and all strollers and wanted to walk on her own.

Although I’ve never done it, another option I know some people do is run to work. I’ve always lived too far from work to do this but if I was training for a marathon, I’d definitely consider it. You’d need to have a stash of work-appropriate clothes at your desk or office and a way to clean up after your run. A shower would be ideal but if it wasn’t extremely hot out, you could possibly get by with wipes, powder, and deodorant. Don’t underestimate the power of these three items. They go a long way to cleaning up if all you are is a bit sweaty, believe me.

run
Some wipes, powder, deodorant, change of clothes and I’m good to go!

Finally, a great thing to do and I know many runners do this is prepare your meals for the week ahead of time, ideally on the weekend. Instead of making one casserole, make two and freeze one for later. This is something I’ve done over the years but lately have been slacking off a bit. It’s truly a huge time saver, though. Let’s not forget the almighty Crock Pot either. They’re great for just putting in something in the morning before you go to work and you’ve got dinner waiting for you when you get home.

How do you all manage to somewhat balance running with your life? Any tips you’d like to share? I love hearing tips like these from other runners!

Happy running,

Donna