Friday, September 30, 2011

Energy Bars and a Countdown Calendar (for my friends)

Remember how my Wednesday night involved secret running projects? It turns out, every night this week involved secret running projects. These were for two of my favorite runners. They are intended to provide inspiration and fuel for their upcoming races.

Pumpkin NRG Bars for Hadz!

Hadley is running her second half marathon on Sunday. And the girl, like me, is currently obsessed with pumpkin. So I made her some Pumpkin Energy bars from Cycle and Style. I doubled the recipe and used two pans so they were spread pretty thin and I worried they would be a little dry. But she loves them and they have a ton of protein! So I hope they will be a tasty way for her to fuel up before the big day.

On that big day, she will run 13.1 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, to the National Harbor. And she will dominate. She'll be wearing a pink shirt that reads Big Bad Hads, in case you want to go out and cheer her on. I can’t wait to cheer for her and to hear all about it!! Run, Hadley, Run!

Marathon Countdown Calendar for Nikki!

Remember Nikki? Of course you do, I talk about her all the time and she's running a marathon in two weeks, on her birthday. On our 13 mile run together two weeks ago, she told me that she used to make calendars that counted down to her birthday when she was little. She wanted to make one counting down to the marathon, and her birthday this year. I pictured an advent calendar with a little goodie or card each day. On Monday, I thought of it and asked her whether she had made one. She hadn't and I know she's super busy, especially with training, so it occurred to me to make one for her. I made it my week-long craft project and stayed up too late every night cutting out paper, googling motivational running quotes, and drawing bubble letters.

It ended up being a lot of fun and it was well worth the time spent when I saw the excitement on her face when I gave it to her tonight. She knew I had a surprise for her but had no idea this was it. What's inside the envelopes will remain a mystery to the world and to Nikki, who will find out each day. All that I'll tell you is that they're filled with lots of inspiration, even more cheesiness, and some calories. Maybe some other goodies too.

Each day's envelope has it's own motivational word on it. They all came from ESPN and Runner's World magazines. Some of the words correspond with the day or the things inside of the envelope. Like the day before the marathon is "Conquer". The day of is "GO". And the after-race is "Smile. Eat. Have fun. Drink." I geek out about this stuff.

After she went home, Nikki sent me this picture. I'm very impressed that she has already hung the thing. And am so happy that she's very excited about it.

I am obviously so excited to run Baltimore. But sometimes I've felt like maybe it would have been better to not be running on Nikki's race day and to just dedicate that morning to cheer her on. I still intend to support her as much as I can and to celebrate her all day long (except when she goes home to sleep) but I wanted to help pump her up in the fourteen days leading up to the race. And those fourteen days begin tomorrow. Run, Nikki, Run!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Garmin, Gu, and an ESPN Documentary

Yesterday I had a few firsts on my after work run...

I took a Gu (hammer brand gel version) for the first time. Not that I felt I needed it on a five mile run but, I have little time left to try out my many varieties of electrolytes. I want to see how a few different things feel both during and after runs and then I'll decide whether I think I need anything during the half. I took the gel around mile 3.5 while running uphill. It was a little hard to tear it open with my teeth and then it burst all over my hands. But I spent about .4 miles slowly sucking it up. It was actually kinda tasty. Very sweet, though, and very vanilla-ey. I think it gave me a little energy boost but it's hard to tell. I also think it gave me some small cramps toward the end of my run. Maybe I should just stick to what I know: water and sweat.

I also wore my new watch for the first time. Good timing because rain was expected so you better believe the last thing I was bringing with me was an already injured iPhone! It rained and the watch held strong- it is water resistant and can be lightly submerged but is not to be swum in. 

The watch was awesome! It displays three things: distance, time elapsed, and average pace for the current mile. At each mile it beeps and, for a few seconds, displays the average pace for the previous mile (or previous lap as otherwise set). It doesn't show current pace which was the most common complaint I read in reviews. But I actually think that the average pace per mile is more useful because it lets you see your progress instead of just pushing you to run faster or slower than your "right now" pace. 

I think the little tool actually pushed me to run faster.

So I ran 5.41 miles in 41 minutes and 9 seconds, at an average pace of 9'05" per miles. Not bad. But my legs are sore, which they normally wouldn't be after 9 miles in two days. I can feel my muscles changing from my picking up the pace. Which is a good thing but I don't want to overdo it and injure them or wear them out before October 15. I'm going to slow it down a little bit but I am absolutely going to push for this speed on race day.

I got home and this guy wanted me to feel bad for him and his headache.

Whatever dude. Actually, I do feel bad for you that you didn't get to experience the awesome run in the rain I just had. But now lets hang out and eat pizza and olives.

With pizza, we watched an ESPN documentary called Catching Hell. It was about the infamous (among baseball fans everywhere, not necessarily me) incident on October 14, 2003, when cubs fan Steve Bartman reached for a foul ball, getting in the way of Moises Alou, who would have likely caught the ball. Had he caught it, the cubs would have been four outs away from winning the Natioanl League championship and going to the World Series for the first time since 1908. Instead, the ball was not caught and the cubs were five outs from winning with a 3-0 lead. That moment, though, changed the attitude of every fan, and player, in Wrigley Field and everything went to shit. The Marlins, their opponents, scored 8 runs before another out was made. They won that game, and game 7, and the "curse of the billygoat" (a supposed curse on the cubbies) was not lifted, nor has it been since.

It didn't matter the errors that were made by the actual players on the field that night, allowing eight runs to be made by the other team. Everyone blamed Bartman. The entire stadium pointed at him, chanting "asshole", people threw beer and trash at him, and he had to be escorted from the stands by security and had police surrounding his house for weeks after. He was a humble, life-long cubs fan but he was the focus of the media and he was made a scapegoat. His name will live in infamy. I love sports but this story is about so much more than sports. It really upset me. In my opinion, Alex Gibney does a really good job with Catching Hell. I highly recommend this film for anyone who is a fan of sports or a fan of human nature. At least read a real review of the film.

Tonight I am not going to run, but will stretch a lot instead. A pit-stop at Potomac Running for more electrolytes and secret projects for two running friends will get me over this hump day! Then tomorrow I've got a leisurely run with Ingrid on the calendar.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Need for Speed

Today, I ran four miles through the city and it was HARD. This run was more difficult than most because I have not run in a full eight days, I carried my water bottle in my left hand for the first time ever, I was scared to drink water before and during the run, and I ran much faster than normal. But why did I do all of these things? Here's why...

Eight Days Off

This has been no secret. I was sick all of last week. But it was pretty weird. Eight days is a loooong time. I don't think I have had a no-run streak like that since April... maybe May. And I'm still not 100% better. Breathing wasn't perfect and my head was a little full but at this point, that cold 'aint got nothin on me!

Water in Left Hand

I have been carrying my water bottle in my right hand for the past 8 or 9 weeks. On my long run with Nikki last week, she asked (or maybe I asked her...) whether I would ever switch hands. I didn't think I would. But she carries her water with her left hand. Because she wears her watch on her left wrist and leaves her right hand free to control the watch.

And... drum-roll please....... my garmin came in the mail today. I left it home to charge tonight but plan to test it out tomorrow and I'll be wearing it on my left wrist, the only place I've ever worn a watch. So I've got to figure out what this means for my water. My left harm just isn't as strong as my right.

Scared to Drink Water

First, you must know that I am a crazy freak of a water-drinker. Seriously, water is like air to me. I love it and I need it by my side pretty much always. To most, this would seem wonderful and healthy. To my worrying mother, this poses a potential health concern. She reads stories about people dying from drinking too much water. I always said that could only happen to people who chugged a gallon of water or did and ironman. But now that I'm running half marathons (not an ironman by any means), does she have legitimate cause for concern?

She sent me a gchat this afternoon that read:

Betsy: isn't 200 ounces too much water to drink in a few hours? Shouldn't you drink gatorade? You should look online but I think 200 ounces, which is over 3 gallons is way too much and dangerous.....

At first I was like, WTF are you talking about mom?? And then I realized, she was talking about this. I claimed to have drank 200 ounces of water after my run and soccer game last weekend. That was a total estimation based on the approximate number of water bottles I'd drank and the amount of water they hold. It could have been 150. And it was over about seven or eight hours. So I don't think it's necessarily dangerous. But she does have a point. I should at least do some research and not get carried away with [over]hydrating myself. I normally drink when I'm thirsty. But I am thirsty almost all the time, and even more so when I workout hard.

I did a few google searches and found some interesting and scary things.

From The American Medical Athletic Association, I learned about something called "hyponatremia", a condition in which one's blood sodium concentration falls to an abnormally low level, usually from drinking too much water. Only a handful of people have died from the condition but, apparently, the risk of suffering from it's symptoms during a long race is more common than most people think. It is a hard thing to detect because its symptoms closely resemble those of dehydration. But, when suffering from hyponatremia, hydrating more will only force your body to retain more fluids and can cause your lungs or brain to swell. I won't go into too much scary detail, you can read more for yourself if you're interested. But the bottom line is that there is a danger in drinking too much water. But there's also a danger in drinking too little. I am generally a hyponchondriac and I get scared easily by things my body does that I have no (or little) control over. So I spent a few hours, including after tonight's four miles, worrying that my brain was swelling. But then I realized I can still drink my plentiful share of water and be safe about it. I won't drink until I feel super full, I won't chug as much as I tend to immediately following a run, and I will "Watch out for feelings of confusion, nausea, fatigue, and particularly vomiting or swollen hands and feet", as the article advises. "If [I] experience these, [I will] seek medical help." And hopefully my loving mother will be comfortable with this.

Running Fast!

Last but definitely not least, I ran fast tonight. With my water bottle on the left, I carried my iPhone (which is working again!) in my right hand, instead of on my bulging bicep (teehee), so I could monitor my speed. I ran up or down hill pretty much the whole time. And I pushed hard. I realized that I jog. I usually take downhills as a time to rest. But, for the first time, I'm looking at this race as just that: a race. I am finally seeing this as a sport and not just an activity or exercise. Somehow, I want to run Baltimore with every last ounce of energy I have in me without wearing myself out so much that I can't finish. And in doing so, I want to run it in under two hours. But it's tough, especially to have made this discovery about my relationship with running less than four weeks out from the race. I know it's late and I'm still trying to have a "whatever" attitude but I've said it before and I'll say it again, it doesn't hurt to try.

According to Nike+ for iPhone, I ran exactly 4.0 miles this evening in 35:59, averaging 8'59 minutes per mile. I know that my Nike app tends to say my runs are a little longer than they truly are so I compared with mapmyrun when I got home and it mapped the same route at 4.11 miles! I truly ran four miles in less than 9 minutes each. That was exactly what I needed to believe in my ability to run a sub-two hour half marathon. But the run was also a wake up call. Because there is basically no very little  chance I could have kept up that speed for three times the distance. The good news is that I've got about 8 seconds to spare on each of those miles. I am torn between wanting to test myself and try running 8 or 10 miles at such a fast pace and knowing, through casual readings of runner's world, that many people don't ever run their goal pace in training for a race. But I want to have fun on October 15th and not feel like shit the whole time pushing myself to do something that I'm not even sure I'm capable of.

I have the Garmin now and maybe that will help me figure out my future. I can only dream about the day when I'll be as fast as the sample time on their screen protector. Settin' the bar pretty high, watch, don't you think? You're gonna need to work with me on this...

And now that you've had a [too long] glimpse into my wandering mind, I will leave you with some pictures of the yummy enchiladas verdes and chocolate milk that Josh and I made to re-fuel tonight.

Do you carry water on all runs and workouts? Do you have any fears about over-hydrating or under-hydrating?

Finally Frisbee

Yesterday I finally suited up and had a chance to sweat. I played a few fun games of Sunday morning frisbee for the first time in a while. We played 3v3 which is always a really good workout. And my team came back from being down by four points in each game and won both. So it was pretty epic.

While playing, it occured to me that this may not be the best physical activity to start with after being sick, as there was a lot of sprinting, running, and yelling. I was tired and a little worried about delaying the recovery to a 100% healthy Carrie but I felt good afterward and have ever since. I was feeling colorful yesterday morning and dressed myself in this getup. And then I sweat all over it.

Let me advise you to never wear bike shorts to play frisbee, or probably any other sport that requires loads of sprinting and cutting. Many wedgies will result. The good news is that I fit in with all of the walkers on Connecticut Ave, clad in pink, finishing up the three day, 60 mile, Susan G. Komen walk for the cure. And no that was not a typo, they actually walk 60 miles in three days. Petty unbelievable.


I spent the rest of the day cleaning, eating and hanging out with my mom and Josh. My mom made Canard a L'orange (duck) that she wanted to experiment on us before cooking it for guests at an upcoming dinner party. And it was awesome! My only advice was to use real carrots instead of baby ones because they will look nicer.

Tonight, I will run again for the first time since my thirteen miles last weekend! It's about time!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking Medicine and Cheering on the Gators

I apologize for my absence the past few days. Blogging, and life in general, is way less fun when I have no sweaty adventures to report on. I am still feeling crappy and finally went to the doctor this morning. And, by this morning, I mean that I went there at 11:30 and didn't leave until 2:30. I was told that I have allergic rheumatitis or something which is causing nasal drip, making my head feel like a balloon, and causing me to feel over-exerted very easily. Sounds about right. I was given two prescriptions and a few recommendations for OTC drugs and am supposed to feel better (and ready to run again) in about 36 hours. Thank god!

 I have been just sitting around eating and drinking the most cleansing things I could get my hands on, afraid to work out and make myself worse. But I have become SO BORED! Josh and I took an hour long walk last night which was the most exercise I've had all week. It was fun but I am ready for more! Baltimore is three weeks from today and I need to keep in tip-top shape. At least I have an answer and a solution so now I can be optimistic. I was also told that I have a slow pulse and a very strong. Probably true for any runner but still nice to hear that I'm healthy, despite being unhealthy at the moment.

They YAY! thing about today is that it's another gator game day. Today I am thinking about how much I miss being in Gainesville on game days. And it's not just that I miss going to the swamp and cheering on the gators in person. They are playing in Lexington, KY tonight so being at home in FL wouldn't make a difference. What I miss the most is living in a place where all of my friends are all about the gators too. I'm thinking about fun memories like these...

FSU 2009
LSU 2008

Nathan in the swamp!
No tailgating? I don't think so.
FL/GA most tailgated in parking lot ever
National Championship 2006. And Nicole's 20th Birthday!

South Carolina 2008

Last game in the swamp as students!


Luckily, I have wonderful friends like Ben in DC, who throw parties and invite Josh and I to take control of the TV during them so we can participate and still cheer on our beloved gators. We are heading to his place at half time of the current UF v. UK game in my new gator shirt, with my homemade (ORANGE) pumpkin cream cheese muffins in hand.

Happy Saturday, happy recovery, and GO GATORS!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Being Sick and Being Inspired

I have good news and I have bad news. I'll start with the bad news:

I am sick and have been since Sunday. So I haven't run since my crazy Saturday. Yesterday, I thought I was getting better and I planned to finally run this evening. But as today progressed, I started to feel more of a headache, swollen glands, and hot flashes. So I've been sitting on the couch and consuming loads of fluids. Last night, Ingrid had me eat an entire garlic clove. Tonight, I'm opting for my magical honey ginger tea.

I might take the whole week off, which will be a huge bummer because I have plans to run with Hadley after work tomorrow. I am freaking out a little because I feel like I'm running out of time and want to TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN, but I am still mildly sane. If it gets to be Saturday and I'm still out of commission, I may resort to super freak-out mode.

Speaking of training, onto the good news... I am on a new kick to try for my original goal of a sub-two hour half marathon on October 15th. Given that I don't really keep much track of my pace or set goals for my pace or splits on long runs, I kind of gave up the idea of running 13.1 in under 120 minutes because I knew it would be more fun to just go out there and run it (which is pretty much how I've been training). But earlier this week, I was reading one of my favorite running bloggers, Christine at These Happy Miles, as she wrote a little re-cap of her 20 mile training run (she is training for the Chicago marathon) last weekend. She explained that her split at 13.1 was 2:03:08 and pondered whether she may have a sub 2-hour half in her near future. This doesn't change the fact that I haven't taken pace or "splits" into account during any of my training. But the fact that 2 hours and 3 minutes inspired her to push for sub-two really struck a chord with me. Because 2 hours and 3 minutes is how long it took me to run my first half marathon in March. So I was newly inspired. I calculated it and determined I'd need to run an average pace of 9:07 minute miles for 13.1 miles in order to finish in 1:59:30. That is twenty seconds faster a mile than I ran the last half marathon. And I'm three and a half weeks out from my race. So it's a little late to be formulating a new plan. Especially when I've taken four (or more) days off due to a cold.

But what the hell, it never hurts to try! So my plan is to run 8-10 miles this weekend and maintain an average pace of 9:07. I will do this for the next three Saturdays (maybe throw an 11 mile run in there) and if I feel pretty good running at this pace, then I'll try for it in the half. At this point, I'm not going to beat myself up about making any certain time but I'm going to do my best to achieve my original goal. That's why I'll be buying one of these before I get off the couch tonight.

No, I still haven't decided on one. I'll probably go with the cheaper one that doesn't monitor heart rate. I'm going to read a few more reviews, ask Josh his opinion a hundred times, and then take the plunge.

I hope you're all happy and healthy and that you'll think healthy thoughts for me this week! What are your tricks for getting over a cold ASAP? Have you ever changed your game plan a few weeks out from a race?

To monitor my heart rate or not to monitor my heart rate?

I have been thinking for a while that I need a good watch with GPS. And yesterday, I decided that I need one NOW. I have done some research, on the web and at City Sports and narrowed it down to a few. The best looking is the Nike+ watch, Nike's first watch with GPS.

This watch, unfortunately, has extremely mixed reviews and it seems that, being their first, Nike still has some kinks to work out. Though I do like the look and have fun tracking runs on, I have leaned more towards Garmin, which is most highly-reputable in the industry. 

The Garmin Forerunner 405 (above) is  within my price range but also has good reviews and many capabilities. However, it is huge. According to some reviews, it's many capabilities are far beyond the needs of a not-so-serious runner like myself. The Garmin Forerunner 110 (below), one of their new watches released in the spring of 2010, is apparently perfect for beginning runners as it tracks pace, distance, time, laps, and average pace per lap. It may do some other stuff too that was beyond my comprehension. The one continuing complaint with the Forerunner 110 is that it doesn't show current pace. It shows average pace for the current mile and for each previous mile. I think that is all I need.

So I have pretty much settled on the 110. The big question now is to get the one above or the one below which comes with an added heart rate monitor and has the ability to display heart rate on the watch. It is about $50 more for the watch with heart-rate capabilities. This isn't something I use now but could I want it in the future? Is it an important thing for me to monitor if I'm going to take this seriously? Is it worth $50 just for the fact that the heart-rate watch is so much prettier?

I really want to order this thing asap but I'm at a standstill. I'm really not sure which one to get. Do any of you wear a Garmin 110? Or any Garmin that monitors your heart rate? If so, is it worth it?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Baltimore Confirmation and Crab Medal

Last week, I received a pump-up e-mail from the Baltimore Running Festival.

It had me click in to confirm that I am registered for the race. I searched "Carrie Shaw" and marathon runner Carrie Shaw in Taneytown, MD appeared. Uh oh, that's not me. So I searched Caroline Shaw and there I was:

ShawCarolineEWashingtonDCSM2011 CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Half Marathon

I am confirmed! And, Baltimore Running Festival, to answer your question: I ran 13 miles yesterday and, yes, I am ready. Bring it on!

Also, bring on the sweet medal you've designed for us finishers. It's MD crab inspired and it is amazing.

I am counting down the days!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Morning Run and Soccer Game

It's another game day. For the Florida Gators and for me. So I woke up early and put on my school-spirited running gear. And I got at least one "go gators" on the road!

I met Nikki in Woodley Park and we started our 13 mile run together. It was really great to do a long run with her again. We went north on the Rock Creek Park trail and then on Beach Drive, which is closed to cars on the weekends. Running thirteen miles wasn't such a great feat, as I've been slowly building up to it for weeks and knew I was ready. But running and talking for thirteen miles was different. It was fun though, and not that hard. We talked about running tricks and food, races, work, family histories, and plans. We returned to Woodley Park, said a quick goodbye, and went our separate ways. I ran another .2 miles uphill on Connecticut Ave and then Josh showed up, in the car, to drive us to our soccer game. I hopped in, feeling really weird going from running for two hours straight to sitting in a car, without even a little walk in between. Not the healthiest recovery. My kneecaps started to feel some sharp pain that was really uncomfortable. It lasted only about ten minutes and they've been fine since.

We arrived at the soccer field and I changed into cleats and shin guards. A few of our players didn't show up so we were without a single sub. I was thrown in midfield which meant a lot of running (con), but less pressure to be aggressive defensively and prevent shots and breakaways (pro). To my, and my teammates', amazement, I held strong throughout. I had some lazy periods but I also had a lot of really good plays and runs. I had one assist and we won 2-0. And I wasn't completely spent. But I did take some time to lie on the fluffy turf afterward.

I have tried to be very careful with what I consume today, given the headaches my long runs have been giving me and my back to back run and soccer game. I ate whole wheat toast with peanut butter and honey for breakfast. Then had half a pack of cherry (caffeine infused) sports beans and about 20 oz. of water throughout. Between run and game, I finished the pack, drank about 16 oz. of chocolate milk, and had an entire pack of Clif Bar Shot Roks which are like little energy bar balls that can be eaten in about two bites each. Within about 1.5 hours of the game ending, I had a chicken salad sandwich on freshly cut olive oil ciabatta, cucumber onion dill salad, and grilled veggies. Throughout the soccer game and since, I have drunk about 200 more oz. of water. 

I made it until about 4:30 before any feeling of a headache. I have one now but it is slight. I think that the added electrolytes and the chocolate milk did help me feel better throughout the day. And watching the gators play now makes me happy, as always. I am actually a little shocked at how good I feel given the added hour of soccer. I am proud of myself and I'm not ashamed to say it. Baltimore half is four weeks from today and I feel ready. I want it noooooow!