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Dog Days of Summer

I don’t know about you all, but I am done with summer. I never really get into it, truth be told, but this year, the heat has sucked the life out of me worse than usual. I am tired of finishing runs looking like I jumped into a swimming pool somewhere along the way, squishing my way through the miles and flinging sweat off my elbows. I am no fun to run with these days either, as there is a major splash zone surrounding me and to run side by side is to risk getting drenched by proxy.

I probably should have written about proper hydration earlier in the year, but there is still plenty of summer left and it is never to late to practice better habits. So I thought today we would talk about hydration a little bit.

I am a sweater, but even if you aren’t a sweater, you need to pay attention to the amount of water you drink in a day. It is recommended by the Institute of Medicine that women drink 91 ounces of water a day and men ought to drink 120 ounces a day. If you sweat a lot, if your shirt and shorts are soaked at the end of an easy run, then you should make an effort to drink more. You can go by thirst, but it helps to pay attention. I am not great at drinking throughout the day, so I have a giant water bottle that I know I have to go all the way through two times. It helps to have that goal in mind, otherwise I would never be hydrated fully.

If after you run or exercise, you have salty streaks on your skin, then you need to make sure to drink something other than water to replace the salt lost. Water is great, but you need to get in some sports drink or anything with electrolytes. Even salting your food a little bit extra can help to replace sodium.

When running longer than 60-90 minutes, it is always a good idea to drink midrun, and summer heats make that especially key. Having sports drink within longer runs is helpful too, as the carbs can be used for energy, along with valuable electrolyte replacement.

It is also helpful to pay attention to the color of your urine. You don’t need to drink until your pee is clear, that is a bit excessive, but pale yellow is a good color to shoot for. Even more important though is to notice differences in your own pee spectrum. If you see big changes toward darker colors, you probably need to drink more.

And don’t forget that you get water from food too! All those delicious summer time fruits, watermelon, peaches, cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapes, are full of water, so eat up!! Even better, you get vitamins and other nutrients as well. More bang for your buck!

I hope that helped a little. I know I need the reminder every now and again to pay attention and drink up!!

Happy running!!

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Difficulties Be Damned

I finished reading “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann a few days ago. The book is the story of Percy Fawcett, an explorer in the early 1900s, who dedicated his life to mapping and exploring the Amazonian jungle. He risked all he had, his reputation, his health, his relationships with his family and friends, to find new places and to seek El Dorado.

I found myself relating to him and empathizing with his monomaniacal drive for this one goal. His family motto was “Difficulties Be Damned,” a motto that I have adopted. I find myself repeating it as a mantra while working up a particularly tough hill or when I can feel myself getting bogged down in doubt and fear.

Not to say that I am doing a work anything like his of exploration and scientific discovery, but it is unusual. It requires a dedication and single-minded purpose that can be tough to maintain in the day to day drudgery of putting one foot in front of the other or in the face of doubt presented by people around me. They mean well, but it isn’t helpful to hear the very uncertainties I already feel verbalized by others.

Fawcett encountered this from people when he would tell them of his expeditions, and I found his description of them fitting and comforting:

‘There were the Prudent, who said, “This is an extraordinarily foolish thing to do.” There were the Wise, who said, “This is an extraordinarily foolish thing to do; but at least you will know better the next time.” There were the Very Wise, who said: “This is a foolish thing to do, but not nearly so foolish as it sounds.” There were the Romantic, who appeared to believe that if everyone did this sort of thing all the time the world’s troubles would soon be over. There were the Envious, who thanked God they were not coming; and there were the other sort, who said with varying degrees of insincerity that they would give anything to come. There were the Correct, who asked me if I knew any of the people at the Embassy. There were the Practical, who spoke at length of inoculations and calibers…There were the Apprehensive, who asked me if I had made my will. There were the Men Who Had Done A Certain Amount of That Sort of Thing in Their Time, You Know, and these imparted to me elaborate stratagems for getting the better of ants and told me that monkeys made excellent eating, and so for that matter did lizards, and parrots; they all tasted rather like chickens.”

It is good to know that some things never change. People were doubting dreamers a hundred years ago, and they are doubting us today. But take heart. Keep pressing on, doing whatever you dream up, knowing that there are others out there, so many, like Fawcett who reach across generations to spur us on.

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Heartbreak Dreaming

Grandma’s Marathon did not go according to plan. It did not go well, and it was not a particularly fun day. That is the big downside to marathon training. When it goes poorly, it goes poorly for a loooooooooooong time.

I was running a nice easy run today, and the song Heartbreak Dreamer by Mat Kearney came on my shuffle. I had listened to his album a bunch during my buildup, and this song resonates with me every time.

“For all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light
Looking for just one reason to get through the night
Every long lost believer caught in the fight
All the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright
Everybody sing…”

It reminds me that everybody struggles. We are all battling something in our lives, whether it is our careers, or love, or feelings of inadequacy, or fear; everyone is in a fight. The trick is to look forward to the light, not lose sight of it, and keep on moving.

I realized that I won’t think that way on my own. I practice running every day, but I can go days without forcing myself to form positive thoughts or to practice good mental habits. I have let myself sink into feeling sorry for myself for bad luck and unfortunate circumstances, but that is not healthy or helpful for effective training. I put so much time into workouts and training and to neglect the mental aspect of it is silly.

So I am going to listen to that song and album regularly (you should too!) and get back to working out my mental game as well. I will share what I learn with you along the way, so that we can be heartbreak dreamers together.

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Marathon Legs…MEH

I am in the last weeks of yet another marathon build up, and I am so READY to race. I really just want to run a marathon…is that too much to ask???

I did one of my last workouts today. It was a typical Indiana day, could not make up its mind!! One minute sunny and hot, the next monsooning on me like the heavens would never be dry again, and then right back to sunny with thunder in the background. It made the workout go by really quickly because it felt like three different days and three different workouts, so that was a bonus.

It can be tough 10 days out from a race not to self assess constantly. I gotta say that I didn’t feel great today, but I kept reminding myself that I have done all the work, my legs will come around by next week, and even if they don’t, I race anyway. My legs don’t ever feel good during tough training cycles, but I don’t panic before hard workouts. I just do them. This is no different. I will wake up race morning, jog around, step on the line, and run hard. Makes no difference how my legs feel; the race goes on. So that is what I was telling myself despite the flatness I felt and the drag in my step.

And then I went and drowned the doubts in salsa and chips with my grandma!! I highly recommend that whenever you feel iffy about yourself or training or life, go to lunch with your grandma. You need to eat anyway and refueling with you gran (or any friend really) fills up your stomach and your heart. Corny, but true.

 

 

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You’re Ticking Me Off.

If you don’t want to have nightmares about arachnids, heed my warning, save yourself, and do NOT read this post. I take no responsibility for the paranoia that could set in after learning about ticks. However, I do think everyone should know a few basics and protect themselves.

I have nightmares now. Dark dreams full of little tiny ticks following the trail of carbon dioxide I emit, crawling up my bed sheets, slowly but surely traversing my body in the hopes of finding just the spot to settle down for the night and suck my blood. I wish I could say that dream has no root in reality, but sadly, it does.

The only thing I can figure is that the tick made it to my room on my clothes. I like to run on grass trails in Northern Indiana and had done so in the days prior to this incident, so maybe my little not friend rode up to my room on my socks or a shirt or perhaps a pair of tights. I more than likely plunked my dirty clothes in a pile to be taken to the laundry and that little jerk laid in wait. He bode his time until I climbed into bed, sweetly slumbering carefree, and breathed out a little roadmap of CO2 for him to waltz right up and find my tasty flesh.

Luckily, I felt him tickling my arm before he could latch his gross mouth parts on me. I brushed the offending tickle off my arm and then startled awake, thinking an ant was crawling on me. Nope, that was no ant on the cream carpet. Straight tick.

I didn’t sleep a wink after that. I checked my hair like a crazy person, digging for tick friends in hiding. I ripped apart my sheets, and took any possibly offending clothes straight into a hot water wash. I used lice shampoo that my father the vet said had similar ingredients to tick preventing meds. Apparently, that is terribly harsh on your hair and questionable in its efficacy. He just wanted to make me feel better by doing something and I appreciate that but my hair is a wee bit fried, so I don’t recommend that.

All of this tick madness prompted me to look into ticks and how to prevent them from invading one’s precious space. It is not good, people, not good at all. These little buggers are fine tuned blood seeking machines.

Ticks can sense you coming. They can smell the ammonia in your sweat and in your pee, they can smell hydrogen sulfide in your breath and they can smell it in your farts. They can sense changes in temperature and CO2 levels. They know when you are coming, friends!! They lie in wait on top of stalks of grass, questing for warm blooded hosts to latch on to as they pass by.

(Side note, and I truly wish I could make this up, but I was taking a little pit stop the other day, looked down in the grass, and RIGHT THERE was a tick questing!!!)

So how do you prevent these little blood suckers from stealing from you??

1. Avoid tall grass and wooded areas with lots of leaf litter.

2. Use tick repellant clothing treated with permethrin.

3. Use a repellant that contains 20-30% DEET.

4. Shower ASAP after coming inside and check for ticks all over, including your hair.

5. Examine gear, clothes, and pets. Tumble your clothes on high in the dryer for an hour to kill any remaining ticks.

That is all info from the CDC. I am quite zealous now in my tick preventing. I wear tall light colored socks (easier to spot the freeloaders!) and spray my legs vigorously with bug repellant.

Please take care this summer. My dad the vet says the ticks are bad this year, and my own anecdotal evidence seems to be indicating that is true. I am not going to tell you mom’s story with two ticks, but trust me, you would rather prevent them than find them in your hair!!!!!

Happy running!!!

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RUN FASTER!!!!!

Thanks to everyone who watched my Women Empower Active Interview last week!! I had so much fun chatting about goals and answering questions. Thank you for letting me be part of your community! If you thought of other questions you wanted to ask, you can leave them in the comment section of this post, and I will answer them.

In the interview, I talked about goals. It was mostly a positive discussion, so I thought I would give you an example of pursuing goals in a way that is counterproductive

I am racing the Indianapolis Mini Marathon on Saturday, so I had a last little tune up workout yesterday. I had some 1k repeats at a certain pace to help me get the feel for race rhythm. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I ran faster than the prescribed paces. I got caught up in the joy of running on a track on a perfect, mild spring day and next thing I knew, I was rolling along. I was fully aware that I should not be running under the pace my coach intended, but I chose to carry on. Running faster meant I was fitter, at least in my head, so I carried on and walked away from the workout feeling pretty good about myself. Success!!

Not so fast, lady. (Terrible pun intended. Sorry!)

Running faster than what you are told to do doesn’t really seem that serious, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a big enough error to turn a seemingly successful workout into a failure. But it did. The whole point of the workout was to feel out that particular pace, settle into rhythm and click them off, not to gain any more fitness by crushing each 1k.

As runners, we tend to get focused on the big goal, which for most of us boils down to two words…run faster. That is the mantra running through our brain on a daily basis…run faster, run faster, RUN FAAAAAAAAAAASTER!! If we aren’t careful, the big picture goal overtakes our focus in the day to day grind. Not every day needs to be faster. Not every day SHOULD be faster.

Each day, you have to consider the goal for that day alone. Before you step on the track, before you even step out the door, take a minute to consider what the objective for that day is. If it is to put the foot to the floor and fly, then get out there and hammer! But if it is to run a prescribed pace and that pace only, don’t push it. That isn’t earning you any extra credit, and in fact, it could be doing your training harm.

Pursuing your goals is important. However, it is just as important to be intentional about the way you go about striving for the those goals. I was reminded of that yesterday. Going forward, I am going to stop before even starting each run, acknowledge the goal for that run alone, and pursue that objective only.

Happy running!!

 

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Bummers and Babies

I didn’t get to race LA Marathon. To do all that work and not get to at least toe the line was a pretty big bummer. But I get pretty stinking sick the Tuesday before the Sunday race, and a marathon is best not started at less than 100%. It was a very difficult decision to make, but in the end, I think it was the right one.

Sooooooooooo back to square one! It is a bit depressing, and for a while, I was quite out of sorts. I had viewed LA as an opportunity for redemption and losing that chance stung. I wallowed and didn’t really want to get back to training.

The last week and a half have been great though. I came to Wisconsin to nanny for my sister’s 18 month old son. We have had so much fun!! It has given me a new perspective. There is way more to life than running. There is family and babies and slides and trips to Chicago on the weekend and wine to be consumed and dessert to be eaten. Running is a blessing too, but it is not the best one and truly not even the most important one. Running around after a little boy who loves me, hugs me, and gives the best spontaneous kisses is better than any run I have ever been on. I know everyone thinks their kid is the best, and this one isn’t even mine, but he tops any little tot I have ever known.

Today, he cheered me on from the front yard as I did mile repeats around the park in front of his house. I don’t know what the rest of my running career will look like, but if this little guy will root for me, I think I can do anything!

PS. I had to use my bulldog Pib in the picture because she is a wonderful encourager too!!

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Thoughts on “Thoughts”

I am one of those runners who listens to music and podcasts while running. I know some people think real runners don’t use headphones, but I am definitely not one of them. When you are running your 12oth mile of the week alone, bored, and struggling to get out the door in the brutal cold of winter or the blazing heat of summer, I think a distraction is justified and needed.

[PSA: if you are running with headphones, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Don’t run on the road while wearing them as you are less likely to hear approaching cars. Even if you are off the road, headphones make you less aware of people around you, so please be careful out there.]

I was on one such run a few weeks ago. Just a morning maintenance run, but it was windy and I was friendless for the duration, so I loaded up my shuffle with a new podcast I wanted to try. Invisibilia is new to NPR’s lineup, and while I have not listened to the many others yet, the first one got my attention. So much attention that by the end of the show I was crying as I ran.

The show is titled “Thoughts.” The first half of the episode was interesting and certainly informative about how thoughts affect people and how to change them by using a variety of therapies. Interesting, but not worth crying over.

It was the second half of the show that choked me up. The hosts told the story of a young boy afflicted by a disease who ended up trapped in his own body. His family thought he was a vegetable from the time he was 12 until his 20s, when in reality, he had come out of it. He was aware of everything from around the age of 16 on. His family and nurses bathed him and clothed him and moved him from chair to bed and back again without realizing that he could hear and see and feel but was unable to move any part of him. He was there, and they had no idea.

His thoughts were all he had. He was in a dark place and all he could think about was dying. He couldn’t kill himself, so he would try to simply vanish in his mind, not think for days on end. He was able to accomplish that, but it only worked for so long. He reached his breaking point over reruns of Barney. Barney was left on for him all day and drove him crazy, so he looked for a way to tell time by shadows. That set him off on a path that allowed him to reframe his thoughts in a more positive way. He worked and worked to be able to move and eventually squeezed a hand. Ultimately, with physical therapy he was able to begin communicating, operate a wheelchair, and go to college.

None of that was what made me cry though. It was when he began to describe the depth of the darkness he had lived in, separated by nothing but his inability to communicate even so much as a blink. The helplessness and despair he felt broke my heart. He spoke of his certainty that he would die wholly alone and never be known by anyone again. For years he was alone. The tears flowed then as the host described how after his recovery he met a friend of his sister and fell in love. He wasn’t alone anymore. He had found love and a partner to accompany him through life.

I know I just told you the whole story, but I did not do it justice at all. Go listen. I promise it will make you stop and look at your own life differently, if only for a day or two after listening. It will definitely give you pause. For me, I have had disappointments and struggles the past year or two and have at times felt very sorry for myself. Even in this marathon cycle, I have workouts where I feel sorry for myself or days when I lament where I am at in life, and this story was a slap in the face. I can speak and I can love and I am loved. I imagine you are too. We should celebrate that daily and be so thankful that we can be strong, active women.

Next week, I will race a marathon for the first time in almost two years. I am scared and nervous and some days I wish time would stop, so that I never have to run it. But I am going to take courage from this story and understand that simply training is a blessing and racing is a bonus. I have nothing to lose. I have done all that I can, so I will step on that line and just run. For myself, my God, my family, and a little bit for this man I never met whose story I found so inspirational.

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Marathon Griiiiiiind

I have reached the point in my marathon training cycle where I feel like I have been stuck in a meat grinder for weeks and can’t find the way out. Seems like every morning as I take my first few steps out the door, I groan and creak and generally crawl for the first mile, all the while wondering why do I feel this way?? I usually mutter something in that vein out loud, and my running friend Kathy laughs, says she feels the same, and reminds me of all the work I have done in the past week or two. The reminder helps for approximately one minute, until my old lady hamstrings start screaming at me again, and then I go back to grumbling.

Even knowing the grind that is marathon training, I always reach this point in the cycle and vacillate between utter despair at how I feel and excitement for the race that is coming. The despair is usually related to how little time is left, three and a half weeks in this case, and how much work I feel I still need to do. But the excitement I feel is usually enough to balance it out.

Not always though. Today was one of those days. I sort of had a panic attack as I considered the race looming in front of me. Luckily, Kathy was there yet again, to talk me off the edge. She addressed my feelings of not being ready and reminded me that race day is fun and what I enjoy even more than working out. She wisely pointed out that using up energy this far out worrying about what I can’t control will only wind me up and wear me out.

I want to keep worrying about it. I want to stress over how fit I am and whether or not I look ready to race and if I remember what it feels like to work hard for a whole marathon. But I am going to do my best not to. I will control what I can, do the rest of the work that is left with pride and determination. I will face race day head on and with a heart full of anticipation and gratitude for the opportunity to race.

I wonder if anyone else gets this way as race day approaches. I am sure I am not the only one. If you are worried or stressed about an upcoming race or a big event in your life, I would encourage you to take a deep breath or two, let go of the stress, and continue to do good work as the day approaches. Good race or bad, the sun comes up the next day, your family and friends will still love you, and there is always another opportunity around the corner.

 

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Goals, Goals, Goals!

I have thought a lot in the past few weeks about my goals for 2015. I wrote about how to set goals and the benefits of setting goals, but had not yet been able to put mine into words. Which I certainly need to do as I am racing in a little over a month and need to define what it is I want to do in that race, the LA Marathon, and after during the rest of the year. After some thought, I came up with ???? goals.

1. Have fun while being competitive.

It can be easy for me to be too much of one or the other, all fun or all competitive, and I generally lean towards competitive. But I have been out of racing for a little while and want to be sure that I light that competitive fire in myself again and not let myself off the hook anywhere along the way, not in workouts or in races.

2. Get the Olympic A Standard at LA.

My big goal is to race the Olympic Trials in 2016, and race it well. First things first though…I have to qualify!

3. CORE!

This is random, but I cracked my rib in December and have been scared to do core or lift as the doctor had said to limit those activities while it heals. It certainly still hurts, but I also know the importance of core for runners, so I am setting a goal of core 4 x a week to get my stabilizing muscles back in shape.

4. Run track.

This one is a bit harder to define right now, as a lot depends on how I recover after the marathon. If I can come back, I would like to race on the track and get some leg speed back after marathoning.

That is all I have for now. Goals change and re-shape as the year goes on, but it is a start. I hope that you guys have written your own. Share them if you want to. I would love to know what everyone else is up to!

The start of a looooooooong run!
The start of a looooooooong run!