Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good Easy Run

It was a combination of factors that made this morning's run so great.

First, the weather played nice. It was fairly cool out this morning and the humidity was at the lowest it's been in weeks. It was a nice surprise to go outside and not feel oppressive humidity.

Second, this morning's 3 miler was an easy run so I just let myself enjoy it.

I didn't push the pace at all and just cruised up and down the hills without too much effort.

Toward the end, I could really feel some fatigue and tightness in my left leg. I made sure to come home and really stretch out. After a day of speed work yesterday, i wanted to make sure that I got everything nice and loose today.

My hamstrings are still a bit tight and I'll probably have to make a date with the foam roller later today to make sure I get all the kinks out, but overall it was a solid run.

I'm really getting used to doing these shorter morning runs without music. I thought that would be something I never really adjusted too, but it's getting easier and easier to go without it. Part of that is probably because I'm not too excited about the music on my iPod at the moment. It's gotten a little stale and I could probably use a good music update, but I enjoy the quiet on my morning runs.

1: 9:46
2: 9:56
3: 9:38

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Training Day One

Coming back from a long weekend at the beach and jumping right into training is rough!

Seriously I spent several days doing nothing but this:

So waking up to do intervals at 5 a.m. was not easy.

But I did it.

My schedule called for 5x400 at 5K pace. It's been a long time since I've run a 5K and I'm not really sure that my old 5K pace is the most accurate indicator of my speed lately. I decided to do each interval in less than two minutes to see how that I made me feel.

The first interval was tough, but after that I found I was going faster than two minutes for each interval. I'm not sure what my average pace worked out to, I couldn't get Garmin to cooperate that early in morning (user error for sure) so I don't have individual lap break downs.

I'll have to look at the speed issue a little more closely to find what pace using.

Since there's no track near my house that I can get to that early in the morning, I used a make shift track, which is also known as the sidewalk in front of my community. It's a very long and fairly flat stretch of sidewalk that I found works just as well. I measured it out yesterday so I have the right distance.

Nothing says speed work has to be done on a track.

Day one of training: in the books.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cooking Challenge: BBQ Squash and Couscous

I had a few veggies left over from last week's CSA pick up that I wanted to use before they went bad.

I mentioned in an earlier post that summer squash and zucchini are two of my favorite summer vegetables because there is so much you can do with them.

One of my favorite ways to cook them is to grill them up.

I chopped them into about quarter inch circles.

Then spread them out on the grill.

They only need about three or four minutes on each side before they are done. They'll still be a little crunchy but not mushy.

I paired my grilled squash with some couscous.

Then smothered the whole thing with BBQ sauce. Mmmmm.

Bonus: I had enough leftovers to last me until Wednesday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creating a Half Marathon Training Plan

Training for the the Philly Half Marathon starts next week.

I'm setting a pretty huge goal for myself, so I needed a training plan that would kick things up a notch if I wanted to achieve it.

After doing some research, tinkering with my schedule, accounting for summer weather and weekends away, I think I've come up with a solid plan.

Things that have to be in a training plan:
  • Rest days! They ward off injury and give my muscles time to recover.
  • Cross training. I'm pretty bad about this, but I know from prior experience that leaving out cross training creates muscle imbalances and can lead to injury. Plus mentally it's good to mix it up.
  • One long run. Long and slow, it gets my feet used to the pounding.
New this year to my plan is...speed work.

I've avoided it like the plague before because I hate it. I'm afraid I'll get hurt, and I've been pretty successful without it in the past. But there's no denying speed work helps improve finishing times. I'll be doing it one day a week and giving myself plenty of time to recovery between sessions.

Overall, my schedule will look like this:

Sunday: Rest or active rest (light walking, etc.)
Monday: Cross training with yoga or strength
Tuesday: Speed work (alternating weeks of intervals and tempo runs)
Wednesday: Easy miles
Thursday: Most weeks will be a few miles at pace. During cutback weeks this will be a cross training day.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Long run

I've learned before that flexibility is hugely important in my training plans. So if I need to swap a Monday or Tuesday it's fine. If I need to bump a long run to Sunday, it's fine.

I tried to create a plan that would push me hard enough to improve, but wouldn't lead to injury, hence the two rest days and built-in cross training.

I'm excited to dive in and get going. In 12 weeks I hope I'll be ready to kick some serious half marathon butt.

Do you create your own training plans or follow ones from magazines or other sources?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Back on Track

Sometimes all it takes to get back into the normal flow of things is to just make yourself do it.

After a weekend of way too much indulgence in terms of food, I thoroughly enjoyed having almost all of my meals and snacks center around fresh veggies yesterday. At lunch time all I was craving was a massive salad. The same was true at dinner. No meat. Minimal dairy, fat and sugar.

Just that one little change immediately made me feel a million times better.

Pulling myself out of bed this morning to run wasn't exactly easy, but I felt better at 5 a.m. today than I did yesterday.

My plan was a nice easy 5K to get my legs used to running again. Holy humidity it felt like a swimming pool out there today. Gross.

Still managed negative splits though:

1: 9:53
2: 9:34
3: 9:28
.11: 0:56

I feel a million times better today than I did yesterday. More awake, more energetic and more alert. Weekends of indulgence can be fun, but they can also be a serious set back in training. Good thing serious training for my 10-miler doesn't start for another week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Sleep Schedules Matter in Training

We all know that getting enough sleep is pretty crucial to being able to get up early in the morning to run. This weekend that definitely didn't happy, but I wasn't too worried about it. A missed run isn't the end of the world.

I figured I'd get back in the swing of things Monday morning, but, then I remembered another critical factor in the sleep/run equation.

It's not just getting enough sleep that matters. Keeping a fairly regular sleep schedule is really important too.

And that's what led to my epic running fail this morning.

Alarm goes off at 5 a.m. I turn it off and go back to sleep. My body was pretty sure it was 3 a.m. and I had at least another couple hours of sleep.

See the past few nights my sleep schedule looked like this:

Friday night in bed at 12:30ish
Saturday morning wake up 7:15 a.m.
Saturday night asleep....ummm 3 a.m.
Sunday wake up: 10:30 a.m.
Sunday during the day: Two short naps in the car ride home from Virginia.

So even though I went to bed at a normal time on Sunday night, my body was all kinds of messed up from my weird weekend schedule. I know it's going to take my body a few more days to readjust to a normal pattern, but I'm fairly confident I'll be able to get up to run tomorrow.

I'm pretty bummed I didn't get a run in this morning, but I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. In the grand scheme of things, it's really not the end of the world.

What are your tips for getting back on a normal sleep schedule? Anyway I can jump start the process of getting my body back to normal?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cook Challenge: Summer Salad

As I mentioned earlier this week, I had tons and tons of veggies to use from the CSA share I picked up over the weekend.

Since the share contained a bunch of leafy greens, I decided some salads were in order for the week.

I made several different versions, mixing a variety of lettuce, Swiss chard, chicken, cheese, sugar snap peas. That's what I love about salads -- they're so versatile.

Some form of lettuce or other leafy green is the base, and on top of that you can build anything you want.

Some of my favorite things to throw on a salad are red peppers, cucumbers, chickpeas and artichoke hearts. I'm not a huge fan of fruit on my salad, but sometimes in the summer, a salad with some strawberries, orange slices and almonds can be really delicious.

Here's one of the many salads I made this week:

This one combine lettuce, Swiss chard and some grilled chicken. Nothing fancy. I drizzled some ranch dressing on the top for fun.

As I was making salads, I realized my pantry is getting dangerously low on chickpeas. I'll have to remember to stock up this week.

If you could build your dream salad, what would you put on it?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to Sneak in Runs on Vacation

The next several weekends I'm going to be on mini-vacations. It's one of the things I love about summer -- the ability to pack up and escape the city for a few days to go to the beach, or back home or other fun places.

All that traveling can make running challenging though. It's hard to be constantly in new places and stick to any form of running routine.

Weekends are reserved for my long runs, but sometimes the last thing I want to do is spend a couple hours out running when I could be hanging out with people I haven't seen in a long time.

On weekend getaways, I usually try to fit in at least one run, even if it's short. My theory is that something is always better than nothing.

So here's my game plan for the next few weekends:

  1. Pack all things necessary for running. (Duh, the first step is to be prepared.)
  2. Use mapmyrun to scope out possible running areas before I leave. Identify what roads would be safe for running -- do they have wide shoulders, a sidewalk, very little traffic. That can be hard to tell for sure, but the size of the road on a map will give me an idea.
  3. Pay attention when I'm driving in to town. Do my assumptions about road safety from looking at the maps match up to what the reality is?
  4. Take Garmin (if you have one) so I know how far I've gone.
  5. Get up and go super early. Other people will hardly object to me getting my run out of the way in the morning, but they might give me a hard time if running conflicts with the day's activities.

Are you doing lots of traveling this summer? How do you manage to sneak your runs in on vacation?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Know what to ask before joining a CSA

Over the weekend, I got to pick up my first ever community-supported agriculture share at the farmers market. I don't belong to a CSA, but my coworker was going to be out of town and couldn't pick up her box so she offered to let me pick it up instead.

The way her CSA works is that she pays some amount of money in the beginning of the season and each week a local farmer bags her a bunch of his freshest produce. The contents of the box differ each week depending on what's in season, but there's always a good haul.

Like most CSA programs, her money goes directly to the farmer, cutting out the middle man. Her produce also travels a shorter distance and is grown organically, hugely reducing her carbon footprint.

I would love to be part of a CSA program, but after picking up the veggies this weekend, I know it's going to be something that will have to wait until I have a family. I would never be able to eat all the produce by myself in a week. My coworker gets half a share, but check out how much was in the haul:

My bag contained:
Swiss chard
A head of lettuce
Bagged baby greens
Sugar snap peas
Summer Squash

It's been fun trying to figure out what to do with all the food. I gave some back to my coworker because there was no way I could eat it all myself. She says she and her finance make a game out of it every week to see what new recipes they can try.

Things to consider before joining a CSA:
  • Is the cost worth it/realistic for me?
  • Will I be able to eat all the produce and if not, what will I do with leftovers?
  • Do I like to cook and think of new things to do with food?
  • Am I the type of person who can deal with getting random produce each week or do I prefer to hand select what I'm getting?
Local Harvest is a great resource to find more information about CSAs, to find farmers near you and to help determine if a CSA program would work for your lifestyle.

Do you take part in a CSA or have you ever considered it?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crofton 10K Recap

Why is it that some races I get super pumped about, but with others, it feels like I'm just going through the motions?

For a while I had been looking forward to Saturday's 10K. It was on the Crofton Parkway, somewhere I've wanted to race for a while. It was a small race, so I knew it would be low-key and probably fun.

But my heart just wasn't in it. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the hills, but from the moment my alarm went off, I just sort of felt like I was going through the race morning motions, without the pre-race excitement.

I still did reasonably well considering the evil combo of heat + hills. (59:26 according to Garmin, 59:31 according to the results. It wasn't chip timed.) That was good enough for my B goal.

I even managed to make some friends while running. Around mile 2.7 I chatted with a guy who raced in his USA soccer jersey. I had toyed with the idea of doing that (the jerseys are Nike DriFit, but I didn't want mine to smell nasty for the game) Before and after the race, we chatted with the BF's college roommate who was randomly doing the race too.

On any other day, that would have been enough to have me on cloud 9 the rest of the day. But Saturday I just wasn't in the mood.

In the end it was probably the heat that got to me. I kept thinking I could have ran a 10K at 5 a.m. and beat the heat. My negative attitude toward racing in the heat on Saturday makes me a little bit nervous for the Annapolis 10 Miler at the end of the summer.

I'm hoping that through a summer of training in the heat and humidity that come the end of August, I'll be more ready for it.

Race stats according to Garmin:

1: 9:12
2: 9:08
3: 9:35
4: 10:09
5: 10:28
6: 9:17
.18: 1:33

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Something Fishy

When I was growing up, my mom used to make fish fairly often, probably in part because it was quick and easy, but also probably because it was something everyone in the family liked. We all especially liked her Cajun salmon.

Since I moved out and started having to fend for myself meal-wise, Ive really fallen off the fish-eating bandwagon.

I'm not sure why because fish, salmon especially, have a ton of great health benefits:

  • Source of protein
  • Full of Omega-3's
  • Good source of vitamin B-12
This week for the cooking challenge, I put a twist on my mom's salmon recipe and decided to grill it up instead of baking it.

I bought a big salmon fillet at the store, planning to cut it in to two pieces on the grill.

Here's a tip:
Salmon skin does not cut easily and you can't just use a regular chef's knife to do it. You need a special fish-cutting knife or a very sharp pair of scissors.

Before throwing the fish on the grill, I sprinkled it with Cajun seasoning and red pepper flakes.

I grilled the fish for about 10 minutes on one side and then flipped it and did 10 or so minutes or the other side. I like the grill marks on my fish. If you're cooking fish with the skin still on it, you probably don't need to flip it.

You know the fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Since I'm always paranoid about under cooking meat, I practically destroyed my piece of fish trying to make sure it was done all the way through.

To accompany the fish, the BF sliced up some juicy watermelon and nuked a frozen veggie mix.

Everything turned out really well.

Grilled fish is delicious and I'm probably going to be experimenting more with it this summer.

What are your best tips for grilling fish?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Maryland, the Big 10 and 10K Goals

I had a whole nice post all planned out about my goals for my 10K this weekend. I'll get to that eventually, but first I'm making a quick plea to the University of Maryland, our athletics department, whoever the heck makes conference decisions:

Don't move to the Big 10! The quality of play in the ACC is so much better in the sports that matter at Maryland (aka basketball and soccer) than in the Big 10. I will cry myself to sleep every night thinking we left the best soccer conference in the country to go to....well....the Big 10 (or 16 or 24 or however many teams are really in it now). Oh and I'll be pissed that I'll have to pay more money to get the stupid Big 10 Network.

This post from the Bleacher Report has Terp fans everywhere in a tizzy. Seriously, you should see my Facebook news feed. It's ridic.

Side note: That report has changed a ton since last night. Last night they reported it as a done deal. This morning it's all about how it's not really a done deal at all. Oh, journalism.

Alright enough sports rant for today.

Race goals:

It's going to be a hot and humid one Saturday morning when the Crofton 10K kicks off so I know that's going to affect my times. I'm hoping there will be enough shade and I can keep myself cool enough that I'll be able to snag a good time.

A goal: Set a new PR, which means running faster than 56:13. That was set in the winter on a very flat course. Not sure if the heat and hills of this course will have a PR in the cards.

B goal:
Finish in under an hour. This seems like it should be do-able even if it's warmer.

C goal: Maintain a 10-minute per mile pace and finish strong.

D goal: Don't overheat and die.

I think the B and C goals are my most realistic, but if things go really well, I'd be thrilled to set a new PR. It'll be a game time decision, based on weather conditions, how hard I'll be pushing it on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

No Music Runs

Ever since I started running in the mornings before work, I haven't been running with music. That's a big change for me because I never used to run without it.

Part of the reason I've been leaving my iPod at home has to do with safety. It's not quite light when I head out for my runs and I like being able to hear if someone or something is approaching me.

But a bigger part of the reason I've been going without my tunes is because I'm enjoying the morning tranquility. Even though there is still tons of traffic flying down the road I run on (don't worry there's a sidewalk) it still seems calmer. People don't seem to be in such a rush and it's just a little bit quieter.

It's a good time for me to let my mind wander and think about random things. It's also a good chance for me to focus on my to-do list for the day and start working through possible problems.

I've found on these shorter runs, I don't really miss the music, although I still listen to it on my weekend long runs to motivate me to keep going.

The relative quiet without my music is a nice change of pace. So for now I'm going to go with it.

Do you listen to music when running?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Why Employers Should Offer a Running Incentive

I'm always amazed how running in the morning completely shapes the outlook on the rest of my day.

Running (even the not so great ones) leaves me energetic and ridiculously happy all day a long. I'm probably 50 times more productive on days I run in the morning than days I don't.

I'm more focused. I can think more clearly. Life pretty much rocks on the days I run.

As a result of runners' increased productivity, I'm pretty certain that we should get some sort of kickback from our employers. Healthy, happy employees get more work done, are more efficient and take fewer sick days, right?

So doesn't it stand to reason that we should be rewarded for our awesomeness with more time off, a running bonus or some other incentive?

Think about it, if employers everywhere offered some sort of incentive for running I'm pretty sure we'd have fewer overweight, constantly miserable people chained to their desks all day long. Plus we'd all get more work done and meet our deadlines.

Sounds like a win-win.

I propose a half day on Fridays if you run three times during the work week for at least 30 minutes at a time. With the runner's focus, we'd be able to plow through our work in less time, enabling us to wrap up all of our projects by noon on Friday, getting us to the weekend just a little bit earlier.

Bosses would be happy because all the work would be done on time and we'd be happy because we'd have a few extra hours added on to the weekend. Seriously, who loses out with that plan?


Negative Splits:

5 miles, 49:04

1: 10:07
2: 9:59
3: 9:46
4: 9:44
5: 8:47

4 miles, 37:06

1: 9:50
2: 9:20
3: 9:03
4: 8:49

Friday, June 04, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Last night we get a wicked thunderstorm rolling through the area. I did a little happy dance thinking it would knock out some of the humidity. It did for a little bit last night, but this morning the humidity is way back up and there's a 75 percent chance of more thunderstorms today.

I feel like we're in the middle of a steamy August instead of at the very beginning of June. I'm hoping this isn't a sneak peek as to what the rest of this DC summer will be like. That would make for some very miserable training.

After three straight days of running, I decided to rest today and enjoyed my extra hour of sleep.

Onto the food:

My cabinets were extra bare this week because I was rather uninspired when I went grocery shopping. I did pick up a huge watermelon that was on sale though and it has been rather delicious. I've only managed to eat about a quarter of it so far so I see a lot of watermelon in my future.

For the cooking challenge this week, I thought I would do one of my favorites: breakfast for dinner.

I was craving pancakes, but didn't have everything I needed, so I settled for some scrambled eggs instead.

After reading the Omnivore's Dilemma, I've only been buying organic, cage free eggs. They come in the brown shell.

I've never eaten brown eggs before and I wasn't sure what to expect. Turns out they taste the same to me as the eggs in the white shells.

I paired the eggs with some toast with a little bit of almond butter and raspberry preserves. I'm in love with raspberry preserves, it's my new go-to spread on almost everything.

I'm so looking forward to the weekend. The BF has tickets to the Orioles game on Saturday so cross your fingers we have nice weather!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Not Every Race Should Be a Rock N Roll Event

I've got beef with Competitor, the group that puts on the Rock N Roll races.

They bought the Philadelphia Distance Run a few years ago, and this fall that half marathon will be converted to an official Rock N Roll event, complete with bands and cheer squads every mile.

Now you all may be thinking, but Jess you love Rock N Roll events, how many times have you done the Virginia Beach RnR half?

Touche. RnR events are definitely fun and a big party, but I'm annoyed about the PDR mainly because of the price tag.

Last year when I ran the Philly Distance Run, I registered two weeks before the race and paid $65. I think I got a $10 discount for running Virginia Beach the week before, so normally the event would have been $75. For two weeks before the event, that's not too bad.

This year, if I were to wait to register until two weeks before the race it would cost me $90 (plus fees and all). In fact, that price jump to $90 happens in about a week.

I registered for the race last night because there was a $15 coupon in honor of National Running Day. So instead of paying the $80 fee I only paid $65 (well $71 with fees).

So yes, in the end I paid the same amount this year as last year, but I'm still annoyed. PDR was a pretty chill race last year. Lots of people, but still fairly low key. I'm worried this year, it will be a little more insane.

I enjoy Rock N Roll events, but I really wish Competitor would stop buying up all the smaller races. It's fun to do an RnR race every once in a while, but I don't want all my races to be RnR. It's fun to have some variety, smaller crowds and cheaper races.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

When Motivation Doesn't Come Easy

This is how my morning went:

Alarm: Buzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jess' brain: Do I really want to run this morning? Maybe I'll just hit the snooze button and reconsider.

Alarm: Buzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jess' brain: I'm so tired, it's dark, it's humid, I could sleep for an extra two hours. But then I'll feel crappy. I told everyone I was going to run this morning during the fitblog chat last night. I don't want to be a liar. Ohhhh but my bed is sooooo comfy. Going back to sleep would be so wonderful.

Fine, fine, running makes me feel good, I'll go and just take it nice and slowly.


Some days it's just such a struggle to get out of bed and go run, but in the end I'm always happier when I run rather than when I skip a run.

Temps were a little bit cooler this morning, but humidity was an impressive 100% even though it wasn't actually raining.

I did my four miles slowly, knowing that I wasn't in the frame of mind to push it too hard. I was pleasantly surprised when I plugged Garmie in and saw that I had run negative splits. I certainly didn't feel like I was pushing myself hard toward the end.


Despite all my mental struggles this morning, I'm glad I got out there and got the run in.

What motivates you to get your workouts done?

My three biggest motivators: You all, the way I feel after a run, having a race on the horizon

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Humid Summer Run

Welcome back! I hope you all had wonderful Memorial Day weekends. I enjoyed a pretty relaxing weekend, the highlight being a wonderful pool party/cookout on Sunday with lots of friends and tons of food.

Last night we were supposed to get a wicked storm and something like .6 inches of rain, which was going to help knock down the humidity, and I was looking forward to a nice cool morning run.

Unfortunately for me, that storm never happened and instead humidity was at about 80% this morning. I should have just thrown on a swim suit and done a couple laps.

Despite the humidity though, I clocked a fairly speedy workout.
Garmin had problems finding satellites again this morning, so he measured the route as 3.78 miles. Last week, he measured it at 3.8. Mapmyrun confirms it's about 3.8.

Anyway, I ran it in 35:56, for an average of 9:30.

The splits look like this:
1: 9:46
2: 9:24
3: 9:11
.8: 7:34

I had to stop and walk part of an uphill in the last .8 because I just ran out of gas. Overall though, I'm really happy that my times aren't suffering too much because of the heat and humidity. I usually get so much slower in the summer. I'm hoping that my body has slowly started to adjust to the warmer temps and that I'll be able to maintain my times through my summer training.