Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fall Race Calendar

I don't know about you, but here in Nashville, things are still hot and steamy.  It doesn't feel like we are ever going to get the crisp Fall weather that makes running that much more joyful.  However, I'm going to use a little wishful thinking today and am linking up with some other lovely bloggers for Tuesdays on the Run - Marcia and Janelle.  So here we go!  Dreaming of Fall weather!
Crossing the Cumberland River (Nashville, TN)
September 3-4, Disneyland 10k and Half Marathon (Dumbo Double Dare)
So has anyone missed that I'm heading to Disneyland this weekend???  Okay, so technically not Fall, but thought I would throw it in one more time because I'm really excited!

September 9-10, Great Smoky Mountains 5k and Half Marathon (Black Bear Double Dare)
This is part of the National Parks series and I am really excited about it.  This race is in its third year, but this is the first year for the Black Bear Double Dare.  Bonus medal?  I couldn't resist.  It will be set just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which should be absolutely lovely.

Then there is a pretty big gap in my race calendar ... I think I will have to find something in the late September-early October time frame to throw in there.

November 6, New York City Marathon
Yikes.  Yes, this is happening.  Think happy thoughts for me.

I'll have to find some Thanksgiving Day race to throw in here.  Last year I ran the Boulevard Bolt, which I really ejoyed.

December 10, Panattoni Mt. Juliet Half Marathon
This is probably considered a Winter race, but there you go.  That rounds things out for the year!

My mom and me at last year's Mt. Juliet Half Marathon
Will you be running any of these races?
Any suggestions for great Fall races?
What is the best part of Fall running?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Packing for the Disneyland Half Marathon

Next week I will be taking off for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend and I am so excited, I can hardly stand it.  As of today, I am almost entirely packed!  I'm a planner by nature, but a runDisney event (or any travel race) is not your neighborhood 5k and requires a little more preparation.  Here are some of the tips and tricks I've acquired over the years.
A not-so-hidden Mickey in this picture!
I start with some of the essentials - my shoes, my Garmin, and my iPod.  I also make sure to have my chargers because there are few things more disappointing/terrifying than getting up for a race and your technology not being charged (I had this experience last weekend during my long run).  I do have my toiletry bag completely packed at all times because I have to travel quite a bit for work.  If you've ever had to reassemble all of your toiletries while traveling, you understand why this is one of the first things to make my suitcase.
Next I lay out my race outfits!  Because I'm running the Dumbo Double Dare, I need two.  Right now, it looks like the weather in Anaheim is going to be in the low 60s, so that means dressing for warm weather.  I also pack a few options, the requisite Sweaty Bands (coordinated with my outfits), a visor, sunglasses, and a way to carry my music, phone, and room key (I like both the RooSport and FlipBelt).
Of course you can't forget your clothes for visiting the expo and parks either!  One of the things I love about runDisney events is the sense of community throughout the whole weekend.  After the races, runners often wear their shirts and medals to the parks.  For packing, that means you can save some space and plan to wear your race shirts during your trip!  I do bring one or two shirts though, especially some of my favorite Disney-themed tops from RawThreads.  I'm also partial to running skirts for the parks.  Not only are they cute, they dry really fast if you get soaked on water rides.
A few other must-haves:
  • A great bag/purse to carry your treasures!  I got my Harvey's Pirates of the Caribbean bag at Disneyland (special for the 60th anniversary).
  • My buffer/massager (yep, it's a car buffer turned running tool).
  • A light jacket - mornings and evenings can be on the cooler side.
  • A throw-away poncho, just in case.  It unexpectedly poured just before this year's Tinkerbell 10k.  An old mylar blanket can also serve the same purpose.
  • Flip Flops for down time.  This seems to be an exciting time for Beauty and the Beast, so I'm bringing my Belle Havaianas.  They also have Cinderella and Snow White (yes, I have these, too).  Want your own?  Check out their website or visit them at their Disneyland Half Marathon expo booth!
  • Airborne - one sick person on a plane can lead to a plane full of sick people.  I give my immune system all the help I can give it by keeping up regular doses of vitamins.
  • Sunscreen - I don't mess around when it comes to sun exposure.
  • Snacks - no one wants to see this princess get "hangry."
  • Plastic bags - the hotel I stay at has complimentary breakfast so I snag an extra bagel and peanut butter, tuck it away in my plastic bag for freshness, and am all set for race morning.
So there you have it!  I'm almost ready and cannot wait!

What are your must-haves for a travel race?
Have you ever forgotten something really important?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday 5: Summer Runfessions

As you watch runners, especially really great runners, they can seem superhuman - gliding along with that endless, effortless stride looking like they could run forever.  The good news is that we are all human, it's not always easy and things don't always go as they should.  Today I'm linking up with some of my fellow bloggers Marcia and the ladies from the Friday 5 to give you my Friday 5 Summer Runfessions.

1. This summer has been really hot and humid here in Nashville.  I runfess that I have been a bit of a wuss and completed way more runs than I probably should have on my treadmill.  I'm talking runs that I could easily have done outside if I had gotten up earlier or just sucked it up and dealt with the heat.  I've fallen in love with my treadmill!

2. I have not eaten like I should on the weekends.  I know that what you put into your body is what you get out (eat bad and expect a bad run), but for some reason I've just been having trouble.  Maybe it's the heat that curbs my appetite, but I've not been eating enough.  Typical lunch? An apple with peanut butter.  Apologies to my body.

3. I runfess that I have taken my long run path for granted.  It's a wonderful path, scenic, mostly shaded, without dangerous streets to cross.  I have not been appreciating it though because I've been getting a little bored and it's also a really difficult run with tons of hills.  I've actually found myself dreading a few runs rather than being grateful to have access to such a wonderful path.

4. I really need to do more strength/stability work.  I've been doing some ... more than I have in a while, but it's so important to include this in your routine to help your body and stay injury-free.  I do have some level of anxiety that I'm weaker than I would like to admit, so I really need to up my game heading into Fall.

5.  I LOVE they Olympics - seriously every event.  I've been hooked from opening to closing ceremonies, which also means that I have not been sleeping as much as I should.  I've been staying up later than normal, which has made me more tired and even caused me to miss a morning run or two.  I'm so sad they are over, 4 years is just way too long to wait, but I am glad that I'll be getting back to my normal routine!

Okay, well I'm feeling much better!  All runners are human, even bloggers, even coaches, even the pros!  We make mistakes, we don't do the things we know we should, and we all have to find ways to get past those things and refocus on whats important.

So what would you want to runfess?
What do you do to keep your regular routes fresh?
Are you a slave to your schedule or more of a free spirit?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Charity Spotlight: Noah's Light Foundation

Every month, I am going to feature a charity that has developed a partnership with the running community.  One of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a runner has been raising money and running for charities who's missions I believe in - it pushes you, inspires you, gives you a team to be a part of, and makes an already incredible race finish that much sweeter.  If you want to make your runs and races feel even more meaningful, consider becoming a charity runner and show your support for a worthy cause that matters to you!
(Noah's Light Foundation)
Noah's Light Foundation was created by a little boy's mother while he was being treated for a brain tumor.  During his ordeal, she discovered that not nearly enough money was being allocated to finding cures specifically for children.  Noah died before his ninth birthday, but that has not stopped his family and supporters from working tirelessly toward their goal.  That goal is all about the NOAH Protocol - an alternative to aggressive chemotherapy.

Noah's Light is a participating charity group of runDisney and involved with the following events:
(Noah's Light Foundation)
That means that they offer guaranteed entry to multiple race distances/challenges for each of these runDisney events if you commit to raising certain amounts of money for their cause.  They help you with setting up your own fundraising site to communicate with supporters and track your progress.  Once you raise the minimum dollar amount, Team Noah runners receive a tech shirt, swag bag, and Team Noah medal.  There are also incentives for raising more than the minimum!  Already registered for a runDisney race?  You can still raise money and be a Team Noah runner with the same great benefits.

Maybe you don't have runDisney on your calendar this year?  You can sign up to become a Noah's Light eRACEr.  Athletes of any sport or participating in any event can raise money and show their support for Noah's Light Foundation.
(Noah's Light Foundation)
You can find all of this information and much more on their website.  Not the charity for you?  That's okay - there are hundreds of wonderful charities that have joined forces with runners and races to help advance their efforts.  Come back next month to learn about another great charity!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pre-Run Pain Killers

I was on the phone with my mom the other day (she's one bad mother runner, just having completed her second half IRONMAN) talking about her training.  Then she said something that made little warning bells go off in my brain; she said that she took Advil before her long runs.  For some reason, I had a feeling this was bad, but I couldn't tell her exactly why.  So, I did some research to re-educate myself and wanted to share it.  Please note, I am not a doctor and everyone should consult a medical professional before starting or stopping any course of medication.
Okay, disclaimers done.  Now, let's cover the two main categories of painkillers one might consider:
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and aspirin found in products like Advil
  • Acetaminophen found in products like Tylenol
So here's the deal - no one wants to be in pain.  Pain is not fun and running is supposed to be fun.  So it would seem to make sense that someone wanting to run better, faster, longer might want to take a painkiller prior to a hard effort.  Bad news is that studies have shown that taking ibuprofen prior to a race doesn't really make the effort seem easier.  In another study, researchers found that athletes who took analgesics (over the counter painkillers) prior to a marathon suffered more pain after the race than those who didn't.

Maybe you're sitting there doubting the research and thinking that popping Advil really does decrease your pain during a run.  Consider some of the potential side effects to taking NSAIDs prior to your run:
  • Mixed with physical exertion and dehydration, the ingredients in NSAIDs can overwhelm your kidneys.
  • NSAIDs block an enzyme that protects your heart, raising the potential for heart attacks.
  • NSAIDs can bump up your blood pressure, which also goes up when you exercise, and could potentially lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • During really long runs, NSAIDs can also increase the risk of hyponatremia (an imbalance in electrolytes that causes your brain to swell).
  • NSAIDs can cause digestive distress, including nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and intestinal bleeding.
No problem, you're thinking, I can swap that out for Tylenol.  While acetomenophen doesn't have the same highly risky side effects as ibuprofen, it isn't entirely safe either.  Take too much and it can cause liver problems, especially if mixed with alcohol.  It's also a common ingredient in cold and allergy medications, so "overdosing" can happen without even realizing it.
Your safest best is to avoid any painkillers prior to running, and if you need them during or after, to be extremely careful with what you choose and how much you take (and consider any other medications you may already be taking).  Remember, inflammation and soreness is actually your body healing itself.  So be safe out there, listen to your body, and when in doubt give your doctor a ring.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Disneyland Half Marathon Shadowboxes

With the Disneyland Half Marathon quickly approaching, I'm anxious to open every Disney-related email that graces my inbox (so exciting).  Yesterday, I received one from Lasting Commemoratives about Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend themed shadowboxes.  If you've been to a runDisney expo (or the expo of another large race) you may have seen the beautiful displays you can order that show off your achievement - usually some combination of medal/bib/race stats/photo.
The folks at Lasting Commemoratives have kicked it up a notch with these shadowboxes.  They are pretty impressive just to look at and a very Disney way to commemorate your achievement.  They can come with or without additional medals, but you do need to add your own photo if you select a photo option.  There are shadowboxes for each of the races - 5k, 10k, half marathon - as well as the Dumbo Double Dare and Coast to Coast challenges.
Some assembly required - directions are available online.
Looking at their site, Lasting Commemoratives already has designs for most of the runDisney races and I would assume that they will be adding the rest as they get closer.  Admittedly, I do not actually have one of these shadowboxes.  For those of us who participate in multiple runDisney events, my walls would start to look a little cluttered if I bought these for every one.  That being said, if you're just going to do one or if there is one that is especially memorable, this would be a really lovely souvenir.  Maybe the 10th anniversary of the Disney Princess Half Marathon??

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Day My Garmin Died

I waited out the rain this morning and finally left home to hit my usual weekend path for a 14 mile training run.  It took everything in me to pull myself away from the last day of the Olympics (I've been completely hooked), and it was just one of those "don't really feel it days."  I got myself out the door anyway, and that's usually the hardest part.  Until this happened.
Excuse me, this is not supposed to happen!  Without my Garmin, how do I know how far I've gone, how long I've been running, and for goodness sake my PACE?!  After accepting the fact that I probably have an over-dependence on my technology, I had a choice to make.  Either I go through with the run (my path does have mile markers after all), or I go home and log my miles on the treadmill (yikes).  I decided to just go for it and see what happened.

So off I went and just ran by feel.  Thankfully today's long run was mostly about time on my feet, just getting in the mileage.  It was a different experience, adjusting based on my breathing, heart rate, muscles.  I had to be even more in tune with my body and quite honestly, I was probably kinder on myself because I wasn't constantly thinking about how quickly I was getting through the miles.  I'm sure my pace wasn't great because it was hot and approximately 1000% humidity.
Even though I wasn't beating myself up about how "slow" I'm sure I was going today, I was happy to see the mile marker that let me know it was time to turn around!  Being completely transparent, I can be a bit of a control freak, which is why I never take off without my Garmin on my wrist.  Runners in general tend to lean in the "Type A" direction, which explains the huge advances in technology that can break down your runs,allow you to compete against yourself, and analyze trends.  Companies are even starting to embed technology into clothing and shoes to give us insights into our body movement and provide coaching on how to run more efficiently.

I don't use my Garmin to its fullest extent.  I mostly want it to connect to the satellites quickly and be able to tell me my pace and splits.  But it still sends me into a tailspin when its not available to me.  My Forerunner 210 is about six years old and can be a little temperamental - if the little charging teeth aren't connected exactly right, the juice doesn't flow, which is I'm sure what happened today.  Over the years, I've gradually updated my technology and I find myself wondering if this is a sign that I need to start considering an upgrade.
The evolution of my technology (From Timex Ironman, to Garmin Forerunner 60, to Garmin Forerunner 210).
Looking back, I do have to say that I am grateful for my technology breakdown today.  It was refreshing to be free of the pace monster.  I wouldn't recommend it for every run, or even most runs, but once in a while, I may purposefully give my Garmin a rest.  My "not really feeling it" run turned out not to be so bad, and I attribute a lot of it to not obsessing about how fast or slow I was going.  So, when it comes to running are you more of a free spirit  or a technology maven?  Either way, switching things up can really change your perspective and I truly believe can make us all stronger, happier runners.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lindsay Loves Sweaty Bands

Few things make me crazier when I'm running than hair in my face.  Seriously drives me nuts.  And I have all these little baby hairs all around my face I once heard called "angel hairs," but anyone who has them know that they are really demon hairs.  So I don't mess around when it comes to tying back  my tresses.  I've tried multiple options, but I'll tell you right now that nothing has worked better for me than Sweaty Bands.
One of my favorites - a 5/8 inch width.
The bands fit my head perfectly.  They do have a "petite collection" for those with smaller heads or kids.  My mom tried them and said they felt too small for her head, but she's the first one I've heard say this.  Silver lining there was that she gave me the bands she bought!  There are several different widths to choose from (my favorites are the 3/8, 5/8, and 1 inch) and often multiple color combinations for each design.  The magic to these bands is the velvet lining that locks them like Velcro in your hair.
It's annoying to have to shift your clothes or gear around mid-run, but these don't budge.  I did six hot miles with a friend last weekend and she commented that my hair/Sweaty Band was in exactly the same place as when we started.  Sweaty Bands don't come cheap - depending on the width they run anywhere between $12-$18 each.  However, they often have sales and deals.
Confession, this isn't even half of the Sweaty Bands I own.  I may have a problem!
I'm telling you, I don't run without them and over the years, I have accumulated quite the collection.  A girl has to have options that will match every outfit right?  They have great styles and new ones are coming out all the time.  They also do custom bands!  Part of why I've amassed such stockpile is that they really last.  I threw my first one out just last month because the elastic finally gave out ... after 8 years.  I'm not gentle with them either.  The website advises that you hand wash and "drip dry."  I put them in a delicates bag and toss them in my washing machine with my laundry, and then hang the whole bag on my drying rack.
Functional and pretty; that's a winning combination!  Sweaty Bands are more accessible now than ever - online, at numerous expos, and even in local running stores.  Give them a try and I feel confident they will help you keep running happy and focused on more important things than pulling the hair out of your eyes.  And in case you are wondering, I have not been asked to write this review nor have I been compensated to do so - they are just THAT good!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Speedwork Made Simple

Runs feeling a little monotonous?  Trying to improve your pace?  If you are running regularly and have a good pace, you might want to consider throwing in some speedwork.  For many, the concept of "speedwork" can seem a little intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.  Here are some easy options to consider.
Fartlek (Swedish for "speed play") is as fun to say as it is to run because it's unstructured.  If you want to do a fartlek run, make sure you do a proper warmup first, pick a point in the distance and then put in a medium-hard effort to get there.  Once you get there, return back to your easy pace.  When you have recovered and feel like it, choose a new point and pick up the pace again.  This is also fun to do with a group, where each runner gets a turn choosing when the pickup starts and ends.

Intervals are slightly more structured, but also help you become a stronger runner.  If you want to run intervals,warm up first and then pick a time or distance.  For example, you might run one minute hard followed by three minutes of easy running/walking to recover.  Alternately, you could run 0.1 miles hard followed by 0.25 miles easy running/walking to recover.  The key is to alternate hard and easy efforts for the same set time or distance.

Tempo Runs help you increase your endurance and speed because they are about sustained effort.  Once you warm up, you begin running at a medium or "comfortably" hard pace (i.e. not able to have a normal conversation, but not gasping for breath either).  Keep this pace for the duration of your run until you reach your cool down.
Are there other forms of speedwork?  Absolutely, but part of why I love running is its simplicity and these are the least complex options.  These three are the ones that I go back to and rotate between, and they really do work!  Someone once told me that if you want to run fast, you have to run fast.  That doesn't mean go out and kill yourself every day, but if you do want to get faster and stronger, you should introduce some harder efforts into your routine in the right way at the right time.

Your body will adapt remarkably quickly, but the key is also to make sure that you're giving it time to really recover between these tougher runs to avoid injury (speedwork and long runs are both considered harder efforts).  Especially if you're newer to running, you don't need to do more than one day of speedwork a week (I still don't do more than one day a week).  Listen to your body and start to get to know what feels "easy," "comfortable," and "hard."  This is also great training, physical and mental, if you decide to do any races.

So get out there, try something new, and have fun with it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Buffing Away Sore, Tired Legs

I have to tell you that running expos are amazing - you find good stuff, silly stuff, unusual stuff - and everyone goes hoping to find the next miracle product/shoe/fuel.  At the last Tinkerbell Half Marathon, a friend of mine announced that when we went to the expo, we had to go to the "Electric Foam Roller" booth.  Now, for anyone new to this sport, foam rolling is one of those things that you know you should do because it works out stiff/sore/tight spots, but really hate doing because it's painful.  I mean who voluntarily wants to inflict pain on themselves?

I have chronically tight achilles tendons - if I don't rub or roll them practically every day, they hurt me so badly for the first few miles of running that I want to cry.  I've ditched high heels, used The Stick, bought multiple Foam Rollers, KT taped myself, but I continue to have this nagging issue.  So I expected nothing from this "electric foam roller," but when I learned it was endorsed by Jeff Galloway (running genius and all around wonderful human being), I agreed to go.
The BFF comes in 4 colors with two options, single speed and multi speed (thebff.com)
When we got there, we were asked to sit down and try "The BFF," which is a multipurpose tool for massage therapy, moisturization, recovery, and hair removal (yes, it comes with a super fine sandpaper-like pad that painlessly removes hair).  I tried it and liked it, but my friend was in love and had to have it THAT DAY.  With a $300 price tag (though they did offer an expo discount that day), I balked.  The salesman told me that this would fix my achilles issues, but I was still skeptical.  My friend bought it and told me I could test it out while we were in Anaheim.

I used it that entire weekend, and I have to tell you that I really did like it .. . like a lot.  It felt good and, whether it was the BFF or not, I didn't have any achilles troubles during the 10k or half marathon.  I began lusting after this massage miracle, but just couldn't justify spending that kind of money.  After flying back to Nashville, I kicked myself for not buying it at the expo price and set my sights on the Disneyland Half Marathon expo in September, where I was hoping they would be back.

And then another friend of mine said something brilliant, "isn't that basically a car buffer?"  I've never buffed a car, but decided to do a little shopping and check it out.  I went to Wal-Mart and looked at a couple of car buffers to compare specs, and ended up buying one for right around $20.
The buffer I purchased has the same pad size (6 inches), same power, same voltage, and a few more rotations per minute (compared to the single speed and the highest setting of the multi-speed).  It does not have a 12 foot cord, pad for moisturization or hair removal, mustache stickers, and is just not as nice looking as the BFF.  I decided to give it a try anyway and I have to tell you that not a day has gone by that I have not used it.  I have no scientific evidence to back up any claims that it has improved my joint/muscle/circulatory health, but I can say that it just feels good and has helped my calves/achilles.  My foam rollers are now sitting neglected and collecting dust.
Do I wish I had the BFF?  Well sure!  I mean it comes in hot pink!  I'd use it every day and probably bedazzle it with my initials.  That being said, I cannot justify the price knowing that I can achieve similar (if not identical) results with my little car buffer for a fraction of the price.  I would definitely recommend it - anything that gives me some achilles pain relief is worth it.  If you go to a massage therapist or chiropractor, you may have had a device like this used on you.  This is an affordable, home remedy that is also compact enough for travel.  So get your buff on and get ready for better, happier runs!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Medals Monday - Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend

We've seen them in pieces, but today we got a nice picture of all of the Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend medals (previously the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend).  This could be in an effort to draw attention to the event, which is not entirely sold out.
Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend Medals (runDisney)
I've been surprised that it seems the Disneyland races have not been selling out as quickly as Disney World.  Right now, the Avengers Half Marathon, Doctor Strange 10k, and Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (10k plus the half marathon) are all still open.  Unfortunately, the Captain America 5k is sold out - perhaps in part due to runDisney's recent announcement that 5ks will now feature metal medals.
Close up of medals for races still open (runDisney)
Free the weekend of November 10 and looking for a race?  I haven't experienced this weekend personally, but have been very impressed with the Anaheim races.  Maybe one of these years I'll add this one to my race calendar.  Spider Man, Captain America, and Doctor Strange not your favorites?  The fun part is that the themes of these shorter races change every year so keep an eye out for 2017!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nutrition For Training Runs

In our heads, we all understand the concept of food as fuel.  Why then is it so difficult to figure out the right things to eat to power through our runs and support our recovery?  Without getting too complicated here, and to avoid an insanely long post about the sad state of nutrition, the short version is that eating is more complicated now than ever.  There are new diets, new intolerances, and new food heroes and enemies every day.

When you really break it down to the basics though (I'm all about simplicity), remember two things:

1. Balanced daily nutrition is essential.  You get out what you put in.
2. Running strength and recovery depends heavily on the right mix and timing of three things - carbs, sugar, and protein.

I'll be honest here - I am not allergic to anything, I'm not gluten intolerant, I'm a friend to dairy - but I do have a bit of a sensitive stomach.  That is part of why I like to run in the morning - less potential for food choices to mess with my digestive system.  So this is what works for me; with my schedule it has to be the right nutrition, but it has to be simple, easy to repeat, and convenient.  Every human body is going to be a little different, so play with it to see what works for you!

Short Runs:
I typically don't eat before I run, but immediately afterwards, I'll have a bowl of cereal (yellow box Cheerios) with fresh fruit and almond mild, and a cup of coffee (i.e. a mix of carbs, sugar, and protein).

Long Runs:
My favorite pre-long run breakfast is steel cut oats with frozen blueberries, cinnamon (helps regulate your blood sugar to avoid spikes), and almonds (continuation of the carbs, sugar, protein theme).  I do have coffee with my breakfast for the caffeine boost, but you do have to be a little careful with coffee because it makes you poop (yes, I said it) and you've got to time that right.  I try to make sure I have at least an hour between eating and running.
After a long run, getting protein within 30 minutes of your effort is important to helping your muscles recover.  Here's the bad news for all of you carb haters out there.  Hard athletic efforts deplete your glycogen stores (i.e. your energy), and if you just give your body protein, it will use that protein to replace your glycogen and your poor muscles will be left to their own devices to repair themselves.  However, if you give them a little extra love and balance (all together now: carbs, sugar, and protein), you'll be able to replace your glycogen and help those muscles that just worked so hard for you.  My recovery nutrition of choice is organic low-fat chocolate milk.

Don't forget your nutrition the day before long or hard runs either!  A good breakfast can sure help, but cannot entirely erase a prior day of bad eating.  Running is hard, but it is rewarding.  Make sure you're giving your whole body every possible advantage.  Training days are the right time to tweak your nutrition and really find out what works for you.  Then, you'll be ready for race day if and when it arrives.  Trust me, that is not generally the day you want to majorly change up your diet!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

FINALLY runDisney Virtual Shorts Medals

Once in a while, you come home to find something magical in your mailbox amidst the bills, credit card applications, and magazines.  Today was one of those days ...
Magic in the mail ...
Let's back up.  This Summer runDisney stepped out into new territory ... virtual runs.  For anyone new to it, virtual runs have been the new thing in running.  The appeal is clear - you get the benefits of a race (typically bib download and medal, sometimes additional goodies), without having to actually travel to a race, navigate packet pickup, or contend with crowds.  You can do the race wherever, whenever you want, because almost all of them are on the honor system and give you multiple days to get them done.  The ultimate flexibility and cheaper price tag has catapulted their popularity.

As someone who has been running and doing races a long time, I struggle with the virtual race concept.  I'm old school.  A race to me requires picking up my paper bib from an actual human, laying out my clothes the night before, surrounding myself with other people who showed up for race day, facing whatever weather/course is set out that day, and feeling like I really did something special when I finally cross the finish line in a set amount of time and a medal is placed around my neck by another real human.

The only way I've been able to do virtual races (and I have done a few) is if I set a specific day, hold myself accountable for completing the mileage in one run, and only add the medal to my rack once I've completed the distance (it's even better if you can get friends to do it with you).  That being said, I'm a pretty big runDisney addict, so when they announced their "Virtual Shorts" series, I signed up immediately and without hesitation.

In the Virtual Shorts series, there were three 5ks taking place from May 15-June 30, and themed around Mickey Mouse (Yellow Shoes 5k, Red Pants 5k, White Gloves 5k).  Each race was $39, but if you signed up for the Series (yes please) for $142, you also received a bonus medal and tumbler (no brainer).  A couple friends of mine also signed up, so we planned our run days together to hold ourselves accountable and then waited for our well-deserved medals to roll in.  We waited and waited and waited ...

And then finally, they arrived!  So now that we are all caught up, let's unpack this box of runDisney magic!
Oh Disney, you do know how to do branding!  I'm in love already!
Many people got their Series tumbler before me and there were some issues with breakage.  Mine came fully intact, but I have to imagine that runDisney is going to make things right for anyone who did receive a broken one.
They say good things come in small packages, and in the small box was this medal magic!  The picture doesn't do them justice.  They. Are. Awesome.
These are not tiny medals, they are good medals and they belong on my wall!  I may have put them all on at once and pretended I was Michael Phelps for a few minutes.  Anyway, to sum up, I think this was a successful first virtual race for runDisney (they took this on in a big, complex way).  If they announce another virtual series, I will absolutely register and try to gather a group.  For now, it's back to training runs for me and looking ahead to the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!

Monday, August 8, 2016

runDisney Wine & Dine Medal Reveal

Another exciting medals Monday courtesy of runDisney!  We previously got a "teaser" with the release of the updated Wine and Dine Half Marathon medal and the announcement of 5k medals being converted from rubber to metal.  Today, runDisney released the full lineup of medals up for grabs during November's Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend.

Kids Races, Holiday 5k, Inaugural 10k, Half Marathon, and Inaugural Lumiere's Challenge Medals (runDisney)
With the addition of a new 10k and Challenge (10k plus the Half Marathon), this shapes up to be an exciting weekend!  This race weekend has been the subject of some controversy since runDisney changed it from a night race (the only one remaining) to a morning race.  Runners can be intense, Disney fans (myself included) are super intense, and when you combine the two ... well we can be one passionate group of people!

Regardless of where you stand on the night v. day debate, nearly everyone can rally around these medals being lovely.  I am envious of anyone earning them later this year - inaugural and anniversary years are extra special.  Nearly the entire event is sold out for 2016 (the exception is the kids races), but if you just have to have these medals, there may be some charity running spots still available.  Sadly, I will not be there, but I think the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend will just have to make my running calendar next year.

What was that you said?  You want one more look at the Lumiere's Challenge lineup?  Don't have to ask me twice!  For everyone headed to Walt Disney World for these races, good luck with your training and happy running!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Race Review: Chicago Big 10k

Think August is too hot to run a race?  Think again!  This one has become a bit of an annual tradition for my mom and me, and it seems to be getting bigger and better every year (2016 marks its 5th anniversary).  The Big Ten Network 10k (they also have a 5k) brings fans of Big 10 teams together, along with anyone just looking for a nice race in the middle of summer.  This is a no brainer for me because I can combine a trip back to my home town, a run with my mom, and a chance to represent my Alma Mater (Northwestern) all in one!
Generally, you don't see many people wearing their race shirts for the actual race, but this one is a bit different because it's all about school pride.  When you register, you indicate which school you want, but there is also an "unaffiliated" option that gives you a classic blue on blue look.  This race definitely has a tailgate feel - complete with mascots, cheerleaders, and fight songs.
Starting line - ready to run!
The course changed this year, giving it a more urban feel, starting right around Grant Park at the lakefront.  We got lucky today, the heat and humidity took a bit of a break.  My mom and I stuck together (per usual) and enjoyed the day.  I have to admit I did get a bit of satisfaction passing people from rival schools!  Added bonus of this race is that they serve Nuun on the course, and in case you're not aware, I'm a huge fan.
Fighting Illini meets Wildcat
As you might expect, the end of the race is a huge party, complete with games, beer (if you're so inclined), and shopping.  Registration also gets you a pair of super stylish school sunglasses.  The BTN 10k also has a great, large medal.  This year, medals came with ribbons in your school colors!  So bottom line:

Run This Race If: you went/attend a Big 10 school, like urban races with good things to look at, are looking for a summer race, like big medals and fun extras
Course: mostly flat, loop, varies between street/sidewalk/lakefront path, has staggard start corrals
What Makes It Unique: the Big 10 theme, chance to meet your favorite mascot, lots of events for adults and kids afterwords
Cost: register early and the 10k is $50, 5k is $40, and 5k for kids under 12 is $25
Date and Time: typically late July/early August, 7 AM start for the 10k 8 AM start for the 5k
Maybe we will see you out on the course next year, because I have a very good feeling I'll be back.  Happy running and go cats!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Finding Your Perfect Running Shoe

Alright Cinderella, you've decide you've wanted to go to the ball (and by "go to the ball" of course I mean "go for a run").  One of the few things you absolutely have to have is a good pair of running shoes that fit you right.  However, with tons of brands and hundreds of models, where do you even begin?  The best place to start is a reputable running store that is going to actually analyze how you run.  Now don't freak out, I'll give you a few things to think about before you get there, but one of the limitations of running is that you can't watch yourself do it.  To really know how you run, you have to have someone watch you (or record you) and best if they know a little something about, well about running.
So many shoes ....
If a running store won't or doesn't analyze how you run (i.e. watch your form from the front, back, and sides), find a new store.  When they watch you run, they are going to be looking for a few key things.  The first is how your foot "strikes" the ground.  You are either going to be a forefoot, mid-foot, or heel striker.  Over the years, opinions have varied about what form is "better," but especially when you're starting, don't begin by trying to completely overhaul yourself.  Different shoe models are better suited for different strike forms.
Heel Strike
Mid-foot Strike
Forefoot Strike
Next, they are going to look at pronation (which means if your foot rolls in or out when you run).  If you do pronate (roll in) or supinate (roll out), you are going to want to look at a category of shoe called "stability," which will provide more support and encourage good form.  If you are a neutral runner (no rolling), you'll want to look at a category of shoe called "neutral."
Supination (roll out)
Pronation (roll in)
Then we get into personal preference (the fun stuff)!  One of the big question is do you want a more cushioned or more of a minimalist shoe?  Minimalist shoes give you more "feel" of the ground or a more "active" feeling.  More recent years have brought about the rise of the more cushioned shoe, which give you a "softer" or more "springier" feeling.  Neither is better, it's about what works for you.  For me, it's the cushier the better and I try to find the lightest shoes in the "cushioned" category that I can (the flip side of a highly cushioned shoe is that the cushion has to come from somewhere, which can make it heavier).
The more minimalist On "Cloud" (left) and more cushioned Hoka "Stinson" (right).
Once you have your shoe categories down, you're going to want to pay attention to your foot shape.  It will feel weird, but know that you're going to want to size up in running shoes.  There should be some space at the front and you'll want to make sure that the toe box (front of the shoe) has enough space (width) for your forefoot.  Shoes that are too small can result in numbness, blisters, and lost toenails among other things.  That being said, you don't want to get them SO big that you're feet are sliding around inside.  If you have high or low arches, the store may suggest shoe inserts or orthotics (but that's a subject for another blog).
Make sure you have enough room toward the front of your shoe!
Last (but certainly not least), you get to pick your color!  Most models come in multiple colors, so pick your favorite and get ready for a great run.  Most running stores have a generous return policy, so if the shoes you pick don't end up working for you, you can take them back to try something different.  You don't want to compromise on shoes - getting the wrong ones can cause real problems throughout your body.  So don't fear the running store!  Now you know what they are going to look for and ask, and can be a more informed running consumer.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and get your "glass slippers!" Happy running!
Bonus: most local running stores also support community running events!  Support the stores that sponsor your races!