Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Double Header Race Weekend

This weekend will be (I think) my first dual race weekend.  On Saturday, I am running the ZOOMA Texas Half Marathon and Sunday, I am running the Graduate Student Assembly (UT Austin) 5K.  I don't run a lot of races, so it is definitely unusual for me to have two races back to back!

I signed up for the ZOOMA half because the weather in Central TX starts getting unpleasantly warm in April, making long races particularly unpleasant.  This half marathon is on March 31st, and I felt probably the last opportunity until November for me to comfortably race something of that length here in TX.  That being said, Saturday morning is looking like it could be pretty muggy and humid, and the race doesn't start until 7:30am, meaning that it will likely be quite warm when I am finishing.  Hopefully the unpleasant weather won't be too detrimental to my time.

GSA 5K LogoThe GSA 5K is a very small race, held to raise money for graduate student travel stipends.  It was held for the first time in spring of 2010.  I ran it that year and finished 2nd woman.  This is the second year the race is being organized.  Although I am not a huge fan of 5Ks, this race is held on UT's campus, which is very close and convenient for me.  Also, I have received graduate student travel grants to subsidize the costs of attending conferences, so this race directly benefits people like me and I am willing to support it.  I decided to run it a gain this year even though I will have run the half marathon the day before.  I realize this means I won't be able to run a fast 5K, but it will prevent me from sleeping in Sunday morning and skipping a workout.  Running the day after a hard race always seems to speed up my recovery.  The real selling point though?  I looked at the races FAQs and saw this:
Can I bring my dog? 
Yep.  We just ask that furry friends be on a leash.   
Top three finishers got their picture taken on the
Longhorns football field as a prize

Excellent!  I asked Boyfriend if he wanted to run  it as well (he also ran the inaugural GSA 5K two years ago) and he signed up as well.  We have decided to take both Bailey and Ike with us to the race.  I think we will have the boys vs. girls, so I will run with Bailey and he with Ike.  Ike is a super sled dog and runs very fast and is competitive during races, so I think he will help Boyfriend to run a strong race.  Bailey, on the other hand, has never done a race and can be very unpredictable when running.  Sometimes she really goes for it, other times she comes to an abrupt halt and won't move forward.  Because I will have just ran a race, I figured it made more sense for me to run with Bailey in her first race.  I have no idea how it will go, but bringing the pups along should make it fun.

So here's to a running filled weekend!  I will try to take some pictures and next week will have not one but two race reports.
GSA 5K Race Report Here!
ZOOMA Half Marathon Report Here!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Refueling Post Run

Workout: 8.77 miles in 1:19, great weather (yesterday)
7.87 miles in 1:13, hills, great weather (today)

This morning, I had a fantastic run.  At the beginning of the week, a massive rain/thunderstorm came through central TX, which brought us very welcome rain and cleared out the humidity.  Since Tuesday afternoon it has been sunny, dry and gorgeous.  I'm savoring every moment, as I know what could be coming very soon...

I wanted to talk about food, specifically refueling post run.  Obviously, eating nutritious food shortly after an intense workout will speed recovery, reduce injure and make you feel fantastic!  What one eats post-run can vary a lot person to person based on preferences, calorie needs, and dietary needs.  I did, however, want to put out there what I typically choose to eat after I run.

Most of my runs are in the morning and I typically do not eat before I run, because it bothers my stomach.  When I get back, I am in serious need of breakfast.  I have found that approximately 500 calories is a good size breakfast for me and carries me through until lunch.  I also find that my body (in general) craves carbs, especially at the beginning of the day, so my breakfasts are always carb-heavy.  During the week, I have two, go-to breakfasts; oatmeal and a smoothie with toast.  Both of these are fast, highly nutritious, made from whole foods and delicious.

Although I have tried rolled oats and steel cut oats, believe it or not, I prefer the instant oats.  I buy plain, instant oats in the bulk section of the grocery store and boil water on the stove in the morning which I mix in to my desired consistency.  I typically eat 1 cup of oats with tsp of white sugar, and 1 tablespoon of flax seeds.  I then add 1-2 servings of fruit including banana, berries, apple and raisins, depending on my mood and what I have in the house.  I will also add nuts, especially walnuts and pecans and occasionally chocolate chips if I want something extra sweet.

I have previously written about my love for smoothies, but this post is old and lately I make my smoothies a little differently.  I use about 2 cups of liquid (usually 1 cup water and 1 cup almond or other plant milk), a ripe banana and 1 to 1.5 cups of frozen fruit.  I keep a variety of frozen fruits on hand including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries, mango and pineapple. Sometimes I'll add 1 tsp of sugar, fresh ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon if I want to add some extra flavor.   I'll also add 1 tablespoon of flax and a bunch of leafy greens.  For greens, I typically use swiss chard or beet greens, but I have also used spinach and collard greens.  I find that I can add quite a bit of leafy greens while maintaining a palatable and fruity taste to the smoothie.  The reason I like to add leafy greens is because they are the most densely packed source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and they have quite a bit of protein.  The even better part (for me) is that I have a lot of leafy greens growing in my garden, so I just go outside and clip some fresh leaves whenever I want them.  It's super cheap and as fresh as you can get.  To make my smoothie breakfast a little more filling, I usually have a slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter.  Yum.

How do you refuel your runs?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin Woes

Yesterday I had some serious Garmin problems.  The run started off rough enough; I didn't get a good night's sleep because my neighbors were playing music and being loud past 2am.  I had wanted to do my long run, but the lack of sleep meant that I got up later than I wanted and I not feeling refreshed, so I swapped it for the 8.74 mile run I had planned for Sunday morning.  Because I didn't get started until 8:30am (not to mention the humidness that is the essence of Austin), it was a very muggy run.  I was concerned about my sweatiness causing my Garmin 405 to go schizo, which it inevitably does if the bezel gets wet, so I locked the bezel.  You can do this by simultaneously pressing the enter and quit buttons.  When the bezel is locked, you can touch it without changing the watch settings.  After some rainy runs when my watch was going crazy and changed a bunch of its settings on its own and managed to stop recording run data, this seemed like a really good idea.  Sadly, I was wrong.

Just a few minutes after I had locked the bezel, the watch started beeping and flashing "bezel locked", which I knew wasn't normal.  At the next stoplight, I tried to unlock the bezel (which you do by simultaneously pressing the enter and quit buttons) but it did not work, no response at all!  Then I tried pressing each button on its own, still no response.  I was a little confused and annoyed, but the auto pause and auto resume seemed to be working fine, so I attributed the bizarre behavior to my sweat on the watch and resolved to worry about it when the run was done.

When I finished the run, I still could not stop the watch.  I got out my Garmin 405 manual, and proceeded to reset the watch, which you do by holding the same two buttons down for 7-10 seconds.  This worked and the screen went blank.  What is supposed to happen next is that the watch restarts itself automatically and displays the time.  Unfortunately for me, that did not happen.  In fact, nothing happened.  I tried restarting several times, and then only response from the watch was a blue line across the screen that would gradually fade and a soft beep.

I was very sad!  I checked some forums online that described similar problems but no real solution.  I checked the charging contacts on the watch and noticed one was a little rusty so I cleaned it with isopropanol and a q-tip.  Then I set the watch up to charge.  After a few minutes, the watch beeped and the screen turned back on, showing the time and the message "bezel locked."  Again, however, I could not unlock the bezel or get the buttons to do anything.  I repeated this process several times and was then resigned to the reality that I would need to get some help from the Garmin guys, but they are closed on the weekends so I would need to wait until Monday.

The reality set in that I would probably have to send the watch in to be repaired.  With that reality came that sad, sad feeling of being without the Garmin and my dependency on it.  This, of course, is one of the reasons I was reluctant to get one, which makes running without one feel so hard.  I find that using online maps to estimate the distance of my routes will overestimate, sometimes by a lot, so running without the Garmin almost feels like cheating!  With in a few minutes, I of course had developed a plan to deal with this, and it involved only running those routes that I had already measured with the Garmin until it was repaired.  Creativity would take a back seat to accuracy.

Bailey gives kisses
Today, twenty-four hours later, I decided to check on the watch one more time.  The screen was still blank, so I tried restarting it.  This time, I got no blue line or beep.  This was new, and surprising.  Then my expensive undergraduate education and 3.5 years of graduate school kicked in.  I realized that if the bezel had been locked then the watch couldn't go into power save mode, which meant the battery had probably been drained.  I plugged it back in, and sure enough, the charge was at 0%.  I let it charge up and then tried the buttons.  Like magic (or science!), it was working perfectly again.  I was very relieved.  A little patience and perseverance and the problem was fixed.  More importantly, Garmin was staying with me.  If someone else has this problem, I hope this post helps.

Bailey and I then took it on a nice, 2.70 mile walk to confirm that it was back to normal.  She is the best sidekick.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some runs are just bad

Some runs are just bad.  Yesterday was one of them.  Everything about this run (except me getting it done) was bad.  I started off in the dark (thank you daylight savings - I actually like running in the dark).  Although it was in the 60s, which sounds fine, the humidity was ridiculously high and that made the 7.85 miles pretty uncomfortable and sweaty.  Extremely sweaty.  I was dripping.  The mugginess was insufferable and unpleasant and with sweat coating my face, it was hard to settle into a rhythm and zone out.  Also, it was buggy.  I kept getting tiny black gnats stuck to my eyes, eyelashes and sweat-lacquered skin.  My leg muscles were feeling crampy.  I stopped to stretch my calves and hamstrings several times, but they still felt achy and unpleasant.  It wasn't until the last 1.5 miles that they finally stopped their silent and uncomfortable protest.  Also, 2.5 miles into my run, I needed to use the bathroom, despite the fact that I had gone just before I left my house.  Fortunately, I was running in a park that had a public restroom, very good for me.  Going in was pretty gross though, because a large number of giant moths had situated themselves in there and added to the decor. To top it all off, I struggled to keep a normal pace, even though my run two days prior had seemed had been much faster.

When this run was finally over, I gratefully stopped my Garmin, pounded icy water, washed the gnats off my sweaty sweaty skin and realized that despite how hard it had been, I was glad I had done the run.  Not every run is easy, fun, or even moderately pleasant.  Some runs are really really tough, and it's that toughness, and getting through it, that makes us appreciate the good runs even more.  I know this and I appreciate this, and I can just hope that the day after a very bad run is going to be better.  It usually is.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Marathon Woman Book Review

Running related books are by no means the only thing I read, nor the majority of what I read (although if more were available that part might change), but I do love a good biography of a running legend.  You may have noticed I added a page to this blog entitled “Running Books”.  These are all the running related books that I have read, and as I read more, I will add them, along with a review of the book.  I am not sure if I will go back and do reviews of the books I have already read long ago, mostly because my memory may not do the books justice, but at this point, it’s a possibility.
There are many reasons that my family, friends and even strangers think I’m weird.  One of them is because I like to read books about running in my free time.  They don’t understand why it would interest me, but this passion is all encompassing.  I get even weirder looks when my labmates find out I’m listening to running related podcasts while I do benchwork.  What can I say?

Switzer in the iconic 1967 Boston race
Recently, I read Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer.  She is quite iconic in the running world, having been the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967.  What may be even more famous are the pictures of race director Jock Semple trying to get her out of his race (once he realized she was a woman) and rip the race number off her clothing.  This book chronicles the life and career of Switzer, starting in her childhood and ending shortly after a women’s marathon was added to the Olympics (1984). 

I really enjoyed this book and give it 4 out of 5 stars.  I thought it was an excellent mix of historical information that was cleverly woven such that a true plot and story shone through.  Sometimes this is hard in non-fiction, but Switzer did a great job.  The most interesting parts for me were her early running career, mixed with a very busy and challenging personal life.  Roughly the first half of the book is devoted to this.  The second focuses on her career in the running world and the intricate and important role she played in the evolution of women’s running.  Switzer was probably the most important woman in running at the time, traveled the world and started up hundreds of races focusing on women.  As someone who went to high school in the new millennium, I was not aware of the full extent of sexism in sports and learning about this was both interesting and inspiring.  I live in a world where I am treated as an athletic equal because of people like Switzer.

I highly recommend this book and think anyone interested in running and marathoning would enjoy it.  In particular, this book will appeal to women but I sincerely feel men would enjoy it to.