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.

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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!

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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

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Photos of My Running Route

Other than a couple of random shots here and there, I’ve never really posted many photos of where I run. I feel fortunate to live in an area full of running/walking/biking trails that are along areas with trees for some shade but are close enough that I don’t have to drive to get to the trails. Honestly, there’s something for everyone with the diversity of trails in my “neck of the woods,” and I thought I’d share some of them with you all. I know Paula from Neveradullbling and Slowrunnergirl often have photos of their running routes, so the inspiration for this post comes from those ladies. Check out their blogs sometime if you don’t already!

Without further ado, I’ll show some of the places where I get to run and some of what I see along the way. I hope you enjoy!

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This part is nice going down, not so much going back up!
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Another hill, but at least this part is usually shady
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#spottedthebunny
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One of my water views
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One of several bridges I run over
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One of the creeks I run over on a bridge. The water is really low right now!
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I love this strip of trail with all of the yellow flowers
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An early morning water shot

There’s more of course but you get the gist of it. I have some lovely greenways to run along and feel fortunate to live in an area with miles and miles of greenways to run, bike, and walk on. I could literally choose a different route for every one of my long runs for months, only I would have to drive a short distance to some of them.

I think the thing I like best about my running routes is the trees. We have a nice variety of different trees around here so the scenery changes along with the seasons. In the next few weeks or so the trees will be lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red, mixed in with the evergreens. Hmmm, maybe I should have waited to have taken these photos. Well, I still think the green leaves are still beautiful!

What’s your favorite thing about your running routes?

Happy running,

Donna

Trying to Change my Running Gait aka Training Myself to Run with a Bent Knee Again

I know that sounds like a strange title for a blog post. The fact is, I had been running with a bizarre running style these past few years and it was a long road to figuring out how to correct it and even how to diagnose the problem. I noticed a few years ago that my running gait was somehow “off,” but I couldn’t really figure out what was going on. I even had a co-worker make a comment on my strange way of running when she and I crossed paths (literally) on a run one weekend, so it was obvious to other people as well.

Still, I continued like this for years. One evening when going through photos online I found a video my husband has recorded of me running a race in New Hampshire. My gait was flat out terrible! I looked like I was hobbling and this was only in the first couple of miles of the race, and I wasn’t injured.

It was time to seek advice of others so early last fall I found a physical therapist who could at least tell me what the problem was. At my first physical therapy appointment, the therapist watched me walk and immediately saw the issue I had tried to describe to her. I didn’t even know how to put it into words other than “I straighten my right leg when I should be bending it.” Apparently that’s knee hyperextension. Of course it makes perfect sense in hindsight.

In a case like mine when knee hyperextension isn’t caused by an (apparent) injury, there are three main causes:  postural habits, weak muscles around the knee, and having very flexible knees. In my case, I think all three apply to me. Also, this is the same leg I broke when I was 7 years old and since then I’ve always felt like it was weaker than my other leg. See my post Biking, Broken Leg, and a Bribe- How to be a Better Runner by Cycling.

The physical therapist had me do several exercises including single-leg ball squats (so as to not put so much pressure on the knee as regular squats), lunges, single-leg leg presses, and other exercises to strengthen my ankles, and relax my tight IT bands. In addition to the exercises I did during physical therapy I was sent home with a list of other exercises including diagrams and instructions how to do them. That first couple of weeks of therapy, I was exhausted by the end of my hour of PT. I quickly realized just how bad the imbalance was in my legs and just how much weaker my right leg had become than my left leg over time.

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My strange gait at the Super Hero Half Marathon in New Jersey (I’m wearing a white hat)

In addition to all of the exercises I was prescribed, the therapist also used Graston technique around my knee and on my quadricep. This technique is a trademarked method using a set of stainless steel instruments of various sizes and shapes, to essentially loosen adhesions in tight muscles and tendons. Chiropractors and physical therapists often employ this method with their patients. A tool is used to “scrape” over the effected area to help break up scar tissue, move toxins out, get rid of tendonitis, while increasing blood flow to the area. I found it uncomfortable but not painful until she did it to my quadricep. That was very painful and it reminded me of the first time I had a massage therapist do deep tissue massage on my iliotibial band when I had iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) many years prior.

After going to physical therapy for four weeks and doing the prescribed exercises daily at home, I began to question at what point do I stop going to physical therapy. My knee definitely felt stronger at this point. I could do things on that leg that I hadn’t been able to do in years, like hop up and down just as easily as I could on my left leg. Five weeks after my first appointment, I told myself I would see how I did on my next long run and then talk to the physical therapist about ending my therapy. That weekend I ran 10 miles with no problems during or after running.

Six weeks after starting therapy, I mentioned to my therapist that I felt like I didn’t need to come back any longer. She asked me how my running was going and told me if I had any problems come up I could always come back. As I mentioned earlier, that was last fall and I haven’t been back.

Another thing that I’ve been trying to work on is to improve my gait mechanics. That’s been the most difficult of all of this. At first, it was pretty easy to try to maintain a slight bend in my right knee when walking, but the really difficult thing was to do this while running. The first few times I practiced changing my gait when running, I felt so out of breath and so utterly exhausted that I questioned whether it was worth it. I started doing this way back when I was training for the half marathon in San Diego and honestly, I gave up and went back to hyperextending my leg. After that, I ran another race in New Jersey with my same hobbled gait; that’s me at the finish for that race in the gif above.

This summer when I wasn’t training for a race, I decided to try and work on my running gait again. I’d like to continue running for many years to come and I was worried if I don’t change my gait, that may lead to other problems such as with my hips until I eventually wouldn’t be able to run. After a full summer, it’s definitely gotten to the point where I feel like I can run about the same pace as I used to with a hyperextended right leg without getting out of breath, so I think it’s getting easier. By the time I run my next half marathon in November, hopefully there will be enough muscle memory there for me to be able to run the race with a bent knee, the way it should be!

Have any of you tried to change your running gait?  How did that go?  Have you tried any apps or devices that analyze running gait?

 

Review of Arctic Cool Shirt

Disclaimer:  I received a shirt from Arctic Cool. I was intrigued by the technology and asked for a product to try, and was happily sent a shirt. How cool is that (I couldn’t resist the pun)? All opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

OK. I saw Arctic Cool on Twitter and was intrigued. A shirt with cooling technology? I’ll admit I’m a heavy sweater, so the idea of a running shirt that would help keep me cool sounded like something I needed to try. I wrote to them and asked if they would consider sending me one of their products, thinking they would send a towel or headband, but no, they said they would be happy to send me a shirt. Yes!

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When I received the shirt in the mail, I wanted to go run in it that very day but my next long run was only 2 days away, so I waited until then. First impressions of the shirt were that it seemed like an ordinary running shirt by all appearances. It’s made of 94% Polyester amd 6% Spandex. The difference is in the “Hydrofreeze X Technology.”

How does all of this work? According to Arctic Cool, the material wicks moisture from skin, moisture is dispersed, Hydrofreeze X activates, and the fabric keeps you cool and dry. One little tidbit I missed before my run is it says to activate cooling with a spritz of water and recharge as needed.

For my first test, I ran 7 miles and even though it was a bit cooler out that day than it had been, I was still sweating like crazy. Like magic, though, my shirt was mostly dry even at the end of my run. I did spill some Nuun on my shirt accidentally, so if you see moisture on the front, it’s most likely from that. You can see sweat on my face and neck, though.

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After test 1:  long run

Similar to my previous run, I still felt like I was sweating quite a bit but I also felt like the shirt was getting cooler, the hotter I got. It reminded me of a slogan I think I heard a long time ago, “We work hard so you don’t have to,” or something like that anyway. I definitely like this shirt. While it won’t stop you from sweating, especially if you sweat a lot like I do, it does help cool you off. Normally when I get home from a run I take off my wet, sweaty running shirt, but I left this one on for a bit, to let it help cool me off.

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After test 2:  hill repeats

I was intrigued about what would happen if I were to wet this shirt entirely and then put it on for a run. Before I did speed work on the treadmill, I wet the shirt under the faucet then put it on. It was wet but not dripping. It turns out this wasn’t a great idea. I don’t think the shirt is meant to be that wet before wearing and I didn’t feel like it helped cool me off any better. In fact, I felt like the best was when I flicked the shirt with some water and ran hill repeats.

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After test 3:  speed work

Arctic Cool also has long sleeve shirts, hats, headbands, towels, and shorts for men (alas no shorts for women). I’m seriously thinking about buying a few of these shirts for my summer running shirts. A hat would be great too.

Here’s the link if any of you would like to try Arctic Cool for yourself. Unfortunately I didn’t even think to ask for a discount code to pass along to you guys so I don’t have one. Their stuff seems very reasonably priced, however.

Happy running! Donna

New Shoes!

And when I say new shoes, I mean NEW shoes! I did something I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do and I’ve never done it myself before. I bought a pair of running shoes online in a brand I’ve never ran in before, heck never even put on before.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing my long runs in Asics Nimbus. I remember having Nimbus 9’s and now I have Nimbus 18’s so it’s been at least 10-ish years given that they increase the number each year. These have been my go-to running shoes, my never-give-me-any-problems running shoes. Even though I like to mix up my second pair of running shoes, varying brand but lately sticking to fairly flat ones, I haven’t altered my long run shoes, until now.

So what did I go with? I bought a pair of Newton Fate II’s. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good shoe sale, and these were on sale for $69, while the new Fate III shoes are $135 and new Nimbus 19 shoes are $160. I thought why not? If they suck, I can always return them and buy some Nimbus 19’s. Probably the bigger question is why did I switch after all these years?

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After being pretty disappointed with my last two half marathons, the one in Utah but even more so my latest one in New Jersey I decided I need to make some changes. Sure, these courses were crazy hilly, but still, I felt like I should have finished stronger than I did. While I ended up 6th in my age group for the race in Utah, I felt like the one in New Jersey wasn’t representative of what I could really do. I felt like it was time to shake things up a bit.

I decided to do a 30 day plank challenge, but this was in-between the races in Utah and New Jersey and that didn’t help me with the hills in New Jersey. Even though I used to detest squats and lunges, I started doing them to strengthen my glutes and help with Dead Butt Syndrome. I read Runner’s World ‘Train Smart Run Forever’ and was reminded of other exercises I need to be doing, besides squats and lunges, plus other things in general I need to be doing, especially as a “masters” runner. The latest thing I’ve added into the mix is to do a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout once a week.

So back to the shoes. When I first put them on, I thought, “Wow! These really feel different!” Newton shoes have “Action/Reaction™ Technology” using five lugs across the mid foot that are supposed to provide quicker bounce back and lose less energy than traditional foam-core running shoes. I’ve never had any kind of running shoes with this kind of technology, so it was definitely new to me.

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I didn’t want to over-do it on my first run on them so I decided to just go out for a couple of miles and see how it went. The shoes felt pretty good, with plenty of room in the toe box but not too much, nice fit all-around, but they didn’t feel quite as “springy” as my previous Nimbus shoes, especially in the mid foot. This was a surprise to me, honestly, but not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve felt like I need to strengthen my feet and Achilles a bit anyway, so maybe these Newtons will help me do that.

Let’s do a little comparison of Nimbus 19 versus Newton Fate III shoes (don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief). The Nimbus 19 weighs 9.6 oz (size 8) and has a stack height of 32 mm (heel), 19 mm (forefoot). The Asics Nimbus cushioning system uses a silicone based gel and an injected top layer of lower density cushioning in women’s models. The Newton Fate III weighs 7.7 oz (size 8) and has a stack height of 27 mm (heel), 22 mm (forefoot). The Newton Fate has “Newtonium foam,” lugs as part of their action/reaction technology I mentioned before with P.O.P. 2 technology and air-filled chambers, and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate in the forefoot that allows you to feel the ground, for constant sensory feedback.

I think the sensor plate is why I didn’t feel like the Newtons are quite as springy as my Asics, because I definitely could feel the ground more in my new shoes, which I think is a good thing. I’m also interested to see how the difference in stack height effects my running. The Asics Nimbus difference from heel to forefoot is 13 mm but only 5 mm in the Newton, which is a considerable difference.

On my second run, I went slightly further out (about 3 miles) but ran on some trails that have some pretty steep hills. Everything seemed to feel good and I didn’t have any issues, with one minor little thing. One of the trails I ran on had some small rocks and apparently one of the rocks got wedged in-between the lugs. When I got back to a paved trail, I felt something stuck on the bottom of my shoe so I stopped to pull out the rock. Hopefully this won’t be an issue.

So far, I have high hopes for these shoes. Along with all of the other things I’ve been doing, I hope these shoes help me have a better race the next go-around in November!

Have any of you ever bought a new brand of shoes online without trying them on first?